Company Creation Conference awards celebrate Strathclyde’s leading entrepreneurs

Synaptec - Principal, Dr Phillip Orr, Dr Graeme Malcolm - company Creation Awards April 2019.

The founder of a University spin-out company has been named the Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year at an awards ceremony to showcase Strathclyde’s leading entrepreneurs and innovators.

Former Strathclyde Electronic and Electrical Engineering PhD student Dr Phillip Orr, who co-founded Synaptec, scooped the title at the University’s Company Creation Conference Awards on Wednesday, 1 May.

The company’s distributed sensing technology is revolutionising the management of electrical power systems in the electricity network and offshore renewables sectors.

Synaptec, which spun out from the University in 2014 and received its first orders from a range of power utilities and suppliers last year, has just closed a £3 million funding round.

Ground breaking

Dr Orr said it was a ‘great honour’ to win the award and added: "I consider myself part of the Strathclyde family, and it gives me great pleasure to take ground-breaking new products to market based on technology we developed together.

The University has been a supportive partner throughout the entrepreneurial process, from company creation to raising finance, and I look forward to working with them as shareholders and investors as we continue to grow Synaptec.”

Other winners included Carmen Cummiskey, founder and Director of Teqnox Ltd, which has developed an innovative body protector for horse riders, who was named Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

Judges were impressed with the 2017 graduate’s body protector for horse riders and how her entrepreneurial mind-set and drive allowed her to overcome challenges during the design and prototyping phase.

The protector, which is designed to be easily adjustable and flexible, as well as change user perception of body protection in equestrian sport, is set to be launched next month.

Carmen, who has been supported by Strathclyde Entrepreneurial Network since she was a student in the Design Manufacture and Engineering Management department and has remained active in the network since graduation, said: “I’m genuinely honoured to have even been nominated in amongst this list of young entrepreneurs, let alone win.”

ClinSpec Diagnostics took the Innovator of the Year title, for their development of the world’s first cost-effective blood test for the early detection of brain cancer.

It will allow GPs to test more patients and accurately prioritise them for brain scans and the company has just announced a £1.6 million package of support, including £600,000 of funding from Scottish Enterprise.

Researchers hope the test could be in use in UK hospitals within three to four years.

Commercial opportunities

Dr Matt Baker, Chief Scientific Officer, Clinspec Diagnostics, said: “The reason we are where we are today is down to the environment that Strathclyde has created - promoting and encouraging innovation by providing a multitude of opportunities for commercial opportunities like ours to develop the right network around them to grow. “

Members of the University’s Enterprise, Commercialisation and Investment Teams nominated individuals and businesses for the awards, which celebrate the entrepreneurs and innovators emerging from the student, staff and alumni communities.

The nominees’ entrepreneurial ambition, fit within the University’s strategic priorities and the potential global and local impact of their business, were some of the issues considered by a virtual selection panel made up of the University’s Enterprise Partners.

Strathclyde alumnus Dr Graeme Malcolm OBE, CEO and Co-Founder of M Squared Lasers, was the event's keynote speaker.

The final shortlist was also reviewed by the University’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Jim McDonald, who went on to congratulate the winners at the event.

Entrepreneurial environment

He said: “These awards are a fantastic way of recognising the incredible breadth of talent at Strathclyde and are testament to the entrepreneurial environment that we foster here.

“I’d like to congratulate all the winners and wish them every success going forward.”

Olga Kozlova, Director of Innovation and Industry Engagement said: “We are delighted to be able to support such innovative and motivated individuals as they progress on their entrepreneurial journeys.

 “It has been wonderful to watch them not only grow their own businesses, but give back to the next generation of Strathclyde entrepreneurs.

 “Many of them have spoken at our events and have acted as mentors for other students, staff and alumni with early-stage ideas. We look forward to seeing where they go from here.”