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YES celebrates two decades by crowning winning scientists

Copyright: Joel Knight

Two teams of enterprising scientists scooped top prizes in a business competition for biotechnology and environmental start-up companies at the scheme’s 20th anniversary event.

The two competitions, the Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (YES) and Environment YES sees early-career researchers from bioscience and environmental sciences develop skills and learn about taking their research into the marketplace.

Biotechnology YES and Environment YES are co-organised by the Haydn Green Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at The University of Nottingham, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) with significant support from the Medical Research Council and industry.

After qualifying from regional heats to reach the finals, both teams pitched their hypothetical companies to a panel of expert judges, and weathered tough questioning to take first place in the respective competitions.

The winners of Biotechnology YES, receiving a £2,500 prize, sponsored places at the BioIndustry Association dinner, a delegate pass to PraxisUnico's 2016 Conference and the opportunity to attend the Rice Business Plan competition in the United States, were ECTODECTO from The University of Nottingham. Their idea was a new way of detecting and treating head lice infections.

Copyright: Joel Knight
Biotechnology YES winners ECTODECTO. Copyright: Joel Knight

Claire Lewis, Managing Director of ECTODECTO said: "It’s amazing to win, the hard work paid off. We knew we did ourselves proud so this is just the icing on the cake, the standard was very high.

“I’d love to pursue avenues in these sorts of careers and I’d definitely recommend taking part. We’ve learned how to take our science to the market, intellectual property, marketing strategies, licensing, just a whole world we didn’t know about before.”

The winners of Environment YES, also receiving a £2,500 prize, and the opportunity to present at a premier regional US Business Plan Competition, were BioPhosphate Solutions from the University of Bristol. Their company plan would create phosphate-rich fertiliser from filtering sewage.

Copyright: Joel Knight
Environment YES winners BioPhosphate Solutions. Copyright: Joel Knight

Managing director of BioPhosphate Solutions, Moya MacDonald, said: "We were very surprised to win but it’s a real pleasure, as we put in so much hard work, and had many sleepless nights. It was exciting to be involved in Environment YES, it’s so different from anything else we do in for our PhD.

"It was great to learn new skills and put them into practice and we enjoyed finding ways of transferring our science into the business world.”

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said: "The Biotechnology YES and Environment YES competitions play an important role in inspiring the next generation of leading scientists and entrepreneurs. We need more bright young scientists to apply their minds to challenges in areas such as healthcare and the environment, and this year’s winning start-ups point to a bright future for the participants and for UK science.”

The competitions involve early career researchers developing hypothetical but credible business plans for either biotechnology or environmental focussed companies.

Team members act as directors in their company seeking equity investment from a panel of industry and science experts.

Teams receive help and advice from expert mentors and guest speakers in areas including intellectual property, financial planning and marketing.

Over the 20 years of the YES programme more than 5,000 early-career researchers have taken part and developed business skills in 1,125 teams. Every £1 of Research Council funding for the YES programme has been matched by £2.89 from other sources.

Former contestants have formed successful companies, developed business ideas and worked in industry, as well as pursuing collaborative academic careers.

Professor Jackie Hunter, BBSRC Chief Executive, said: "In 2015, the Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (YES) reaches a number of remarkable milestones as it marks two decades in existence and its alumni surpasses 5,000.

“I believe the success and longevity of YES is the result of genuine partnership on many levels aimed at a common goal of developing an entrepreneurial culture amongst researchers for the benefit of the UK economy.

“The energy and enthusiasm of YES participants never fails to impress me and I would like to send a heartfelt thank you to all those who have taken part and all those who have worked so hard over the years to sustain YES and make it the success it is today. Congratulations to the 2015 winners ECTODECTO and BioPhosphate Solutions.”

Professor Simon Mosey, Director of the Haydn Green Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at The University of Nottingham, said: "The 20th year of YES has been the most exciting yet. The teams have met the challenges we posed with breath-taking ingenuity and their ideas to address global warming, the ageing population and food security are truly exceptional.

Hearing the competitors pitch their ideas and explaining how scientific breakthroughs can make the world a better place gives me confidence that the future of UK science is in safe hands.”



Pictures of finalists and more details available on request.

Notes to editors

An independent evaluation of Biotechnology YES published in 2010 showed that it gives early career researchers the edge in entrepreneurial skills and future career prospects. Having participated in the competition, early career scientists are well prepared to move into industry where their improved entrepreneurial skills are highly valued. There is evidence to suggest that past participants perceive their earning potential as greater following the competition and the review indicates that the skills gained are exactly complementary to those acquired during a PhD.

The competitions receive support from:

  • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
  • GlaxoSmithKline
  • Medical Research Council (MRC)
  • Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
  • Royal Society of Chemistry
  • Syngenta
  • Unilever
  • The University of Nottingham Haydn Green Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (HGI)

In addition, numerous other organisations support the competition through providing speakers, mentors and judges for the workshops and final.

The following awards were also presented at the finals:

  • Best healthcare business plan sponsored by GSK, won by Nix from Newcastle University
  • Best consideration of financial planning strategy sponsored by James Cowper Kreston won by Augean Technologies from the University of Liverpool
  • Best plant, microbial and environmental business plan sponsored by Syngenta won by Palm Solutions
  • Best consideration of IP strategy sponsored by Potter Clarkson won by Algagen from the University of Birmingham
  • Best sustainable innovation sponsored by Unilever won by BubbleRipe from the University of Birmingham
  • Best presenter sponsored by The Haydn Green Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship won by Nicole Ward from Mind-Tech, University of East Anglia


BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by Government, BBSRC invested over £509M in world-class bioscience in 2014-15. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact see:
For more information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes see:

About NERC

NERC is the largest funder of environmental science in the UK. We invest £330M in cutting-edge research, training and knowledge transfer in the environmental sciences. Our scientists study and monitor the whole planet, from pole to pole, and from the deep Earth and oceans to the edge of space. We address and respond to critical issues such as environmental hazards, resource security and environmental change. Through collaboration with other science disciplines, with UK business and with policy-makers, we make sure our knowledge and skills support sustainable economic growth and public wellbeing – reducing risks to health, infrastructure, supply chains and our changing environment. For more information see:

About The University of Nottingham

The University of Nottingham has 42,000 students and is 'the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with campuses in China and Malaysia modelled on a headquarters that is among the most attractive in Britain' (Times Good University Guide 2014). It is also one of the most popular universities among graduate employers, one of the world's greenest universities, and winner of the Times Higher Education Award for 'Outstanding Contribution to Sustainable Development'. It is ranked in the World's Top 75 universities by the QS World University Rankings.

Based in Nottingham University Business School, the Haydn Green Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is one of the leading centres of excellence in enterprise education in Europe.

The institute's mission is to be a centre of excellence in the development of enterprise and entrepreneurial skills, innovation and understanding the commercialisation of research. Globally, it is recognised that creativity, innovation, risk, knowledge transfer and technology transfer are key to competitiveness. The institute aims to broaden and deepen the development of entrepreneurial skills that are so important in today's economy. This will encourage innovation and growth in the short, medium, and long term both regionally and nationally.

External contact

Environment YES – Karen Christian, Digital Communications Officer, NERC

+44 1793 411568

Tags: commercialisation funding industry innovation people skills and training BBSRC press release