Agricultural tech, seafood waste management and children’s healthcare companies took home the top prizes in this year’s Startup Summer Accelerator Demo Day, where 14 student startups pitched to a judging panel, following three months of intensive training to become investor-ready.

Startup Summer Accelerator Demo Day's 14 student startups pictured in front of the ECCI building

As a result of Edinburgh Earth Initiative’s partnership with Edinburgh Innovations  – the University of Edinburgh’s commercialisation service – on the Summer Accelerator programme, this year’s cohort were chosen for their commitment to supporting the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Overall winner

Overall Demo Day winner was agricultural technology company Raygonal, led by founder and PhD graduate Dr Aliyu Dala (Electrical and Electronics Engineering, 2022), who won an additional £1000 on top of the £3000 each company receives as part of the programme. Raygonal deploys deep tech to tackle food production in some of the poorest regions on the planet and is currently piloting an aquaculture system in Nigeria.

Dr Dala said: “Before I got involved with Edinburgh Innovations in 2018, I was mainly a technical person. EI has enabled me to build the business and development side of my invention, which I took as seriously as my underwater wireless sensor PhD! I have been very happy within the Edinburgh ecosystem, and this prize money will enable Raygonal to fine tune our current product – a ‘magic box’ for water management in fish hatcheries. Ultimately, we hope to transform aquaculture and agriculture in Africa and elsewhere through humane, sustainable methods.”

Runner up

Judges Mary Jane Bowers of Mint Ventures, Alison Grieve of Young Company Finance and Professor Jamie Cross, director of the Edinburgh Earth Initiative, also awarded a runner up prize of £500 to circular seafood waste management company CrustaTec, founded by Masters graduate María Isabel Amorín (Materials Chemistry, 2021).

CrustaTec uses the polymer chitosan, found in shrimp shells and a by-product of the shrimp industry, to produce a recirculation filter for textiles wastewater treatment and a natural conditioner for general wastewater treatment.

Judge Alison Grieve said: “I was extremely impressed by the standard of the entire cohort. Raygonal and CrustaTec exemplify well-run businesses tackling real-world problems with solutions that have the potential to have a profound impact on our future world. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and heartening afternoon! ”

Entrepreneurial Spirit award

The Entrepreneurial Spirit award was won by Lizzie Smith, founder of Gradatim, which creates children’s picture books to assist parents, caregivers and health professionals deliver healthcare and illness-related news to children under five. Designed with health professionals, the books provide children with clear and understandable explanations of medical conditions or procedures that affect them or their loved ones.

Dr John Lonsdale, Head of Enterprise at Edinburgh Innovations, said: “This is our fifth year of running the Startup Summer Accelerator and it felt fitting to have a focus on sustainability and climate solutions this year.

“It’s an honour and a pleasure to help get these impressive startups ready for investment, so that they can take their ideas out into the world where they can make a difference.”

Growth and investment

Sarah Gibbens, Earth Enterprise Officer, said: “It has been an absolute pleasure to support these 14 inspiring startups over the summer. These students and alumni from the University of Edinburgh exemplify the myriad possibilities for careers in entrepreneurship and how to create a business that supports sustainable development.

“Our previous Startup Summer Accelerator Alumni have gone on to achieve fantastic things; many have won awards at Converge and Scottish Edge – securing funding from £10k all the way up to £100k, last year six of our alumni were awarded £500k in Scottish Enterprise grant funding awards between them, and some of our alumni have even gone on to receive millions in investment.

“The startup journey for our 2023 cohort does not end here, and the student enterprise team are delighted to continue to support these companies in the key next stages of their business growth.”

The 2023 Startup Summer Accelerator was sponsored by the Edinburgh Earth Initiative, Mastercard Foundation and Santander Universities.

Student Earth Enterprise

The Edinburgh Earth Initiative actively supports students who have an idea for a business or social enterprise that could help our climate.

Edinburgh Earth Initiative supports students at the University of Edinburgh that are leading the way in defining a new era of business. Working with Edinburgh Innovations’ Student Enterprise Services team, Edinburgh Earth Initiative hosts an annual support programme of business idea competitions, training and development opportunities and other activities to help students tackle climate change through being an entrepreneur.

Find out more