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Ambitious growth


Three ventures from the University of Cambridge are selected for the Santander Universities Growth Accelerator (SUGA) run in collaboration with Santander Universities and the Universities of East Anglia, Essex and Kent.

Ambitious growth

Three ventures – which focus on battery power, orbital launch and business intelligence – have been awarded places on the Santander Universities Growth Accelerator (SUGA) programme that aims to boost the growth of ambitious early-stage ventures.

The University of Cambridge is working in collaboration with Santander Universities and the Universities of East Anglia, Essex and Kent to deliver the new programme. Each University partner selected a maximum of three ventures making a total of twelve ventures participating. The Entrepreneurship Centre at Cambridge Judge is co-ordinating the initiative on behalf of the University of Cambridge and selected the three ventures for the programme.

SUGA enables the entrepreneurs selected to meet and network with similarly ambitious people from other universities. The programme involves a timetable of training days delivered by each University partner. Cambridge Judge Business School hosted and delivered the initial weekend of the programme from 27-28 April, with further sessions scheduled for June, July and September.

Santander is playing an active role in supporting these training days, including being involved in one-to-one sessions with the ventures.

Each venture accepted onto the programme receives a £3,000 grant to further develop the venture and cover travel costs related to SUGA. The programme is designed to provide an overview of major challenges faced by startups including legal issues, intellectual property protection, marketing, fundraising, and team-building.

The three Cambridge ventures to be awarded places at SUGA are:

1. AC Biode

AC Biode, which has developed an alternating current (AC) system to create batteries that it says have more capacity, last longer, and are safer. Regular lithium-ion batteries use a direct current (DC) system, so electricity needs to be converted from the AC power grid to DC, resulting in power loss. AC Biode has therefore developed a “biode” that works with AC systems. AC Biode is co-founded and led by Tadashi Kubo, a Cambridge MBA alumnus (MBA 2017), who also founded H24E Innova. His co-founders are Robert Kunzmann, a PhD at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Engineering, and Farazane Taraie.

2. Protolaunch

Protolaunch is developing an orbital launch vehicle dedicated to CubeSat providers, which would offer regular UK launches of small payloads under 50 kilogrammes. Protolaunch seeks to reduce complexity, and thereby reduce launch lead times from years to months for small payloads. The founders are Matt Escott, Master of Engineering, Manufacturing Engineering and Scholar of Selwyn College; Jack Brewster, a PhD Candidate at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Engineering; and Matt Coates, Master of Engineering, Electronics and Information Engineering, University of Cambridge.

3. Versed AI

Versed AI, an early-stage startup, uses natural language processing and machine learning for business intelligence. Versed AI text-mines millions of articles, business reports and social media for relationships between organisations, companies, products, and people, then seeks to discover patterns and infer missing or unknown knowledge. The founders are Simon Baker, a postdoc at the University of Cambridge’s Language Technology Lab; Gamal Crichton, PhD student at the University of Cambridge’s Language Technology Lab; and Pascal Wichmann, PhD student at the Department of Engineering and Research Assistant at the University of Cambridge.