Budding student entrepreneurs win national business plan competition

Posted by ap507 at Dec 10, 2014 10:40 AM |
Top prize for ‘uncaffeinated coffee’ pitch devised by University of Leicester team

Issued by the University of Leicester Press Office on 10 December 2014

Contact pressoffice@le.ac.uk to request images

A team of five PhD students from the University of Leicester has claimed top spot in the national Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs’ Scheme competition (Biotechnology YES).

The team impressed a panel of industry experts with their plan to launch SenzaSeeds, a new business based around technology that enables the world’s first wholly uncaffeinated coffee, naturally uncaffeinated beans that replace the need for any decaffeination process.

SenzaSeeds overcame fierce competition from 11 other finalists, each of which were winners of their regional heats.

Biotechnology YES is an innovative national competition designed to raise awareness of the commercialisation of bioscience ideas among early career researchers. Teams of scientists come together to develop and present a “Dragons’ Den”-style business pitch for start-up company investment, based around an “imaginary” scientific discovery.

On hearing the result, Zoe Stephenson, CEO for the imaginary start-up, said:

“Biotechnology YES has been a fantastic experience. Over the past few weeks we have had a crash course in business, marketing, intellectual property and finance and this all came together in our pitch to the industry ‘dragons’ today. Winning the national finals is a dream come true but, what’s more, we are now in a much better position to spot real commercial opportunities as our scientific careers unfold.”

The University of Leicester team consisted of Zoe Stephenson from the MRC Toxicology Unit, as SenzaSeeds’s CEO; Munisha Devi from the MRC Toxicology Unit, as Operations Director; Joana Dos Santos from the Department of Genetics, as Marketing Manager; Usha Aryal from the Department of Genetics, as Chief Financial Officer; and Ricky Trigg from the Department of Cancer Studies, as Chief Scientific Officer.

Dr James Lapworth, from the University’s Enterprise & Business Development Office, who coached the team on entrepreneurship and business planning, commented:

“The SenzaSeeds team have worked extremely hard to put together a convincing pitch and they truly deserve the recognition that they have now received as national champions. We had some great comments back from the judges, who really bought into the concept of naturally uncaffeinated coffee. There is clearly a big market out there for a product like this. I only wish the technology behind it was real!”

A delighted Martin Coffey, from the Leicester Learning Institute, who mentored the team throughout their preparation for Biotechnology YES, said:

“The SenzaSeeds team gelled quickly and came up with an outstanding idea for their ‘Imaginary business’.  Their energetic application to learning many new skills, particularly pitching their business idea in a bid for funding, is evidenced in this outstanding success.  I have every confidence they will represent the University of Leicester, and the UK, with distinction when they go on to compete with representatives from over 40 other countries at the 2015 Rice Business Plan Competition in Houston, Texas.”


Biotechnology YES is organised jointly by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the University of Nottingham’s Haydn Green Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (HGI).


Read the BBSRC press release here: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/news/people-skills-training/2014/141209-pr-prizes-at-business-competition.aspx

For more information on the 2015 Rice Business Plan Competition in Houston, Texas: http://alliance.rice.edu/rbpc.aspx


Notes to editors:

For more information, please contact Martin Coffey on MGC5@le.ac.uk

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