SCIENCEPRENEURSHIP-To the next level with Carots Startup School

We are all quite familiar with the role of scientists and we are also somewhat aware of the duties and range of action of entrepreneurs. But what about the sciencepreneurs? Do we know who they are, what their main achievements are, and how to become one?

If this is the first time you have heard about sciencepreneurs, you are not alone. However, you may start hearing about them a lot more as increasing funding is made available for this next generation of innovators. CAROTS is one such initiative which aims to bridge the world of science and industry by establishing the creation of private companies that act as intermediary service providers between those offering scientific expertise and those in need of this expertise. Sciencepreneurs are valuable because they make the link between academia and industry.

To help scientists become entrepreneurs, CAROTS launched a free startup school focused on teaching scientists the operational skills necessary to transform their ideas into the businesses of tomorrow.

What is the link between the CAROTS startup school & InnovaXN?

Samuel Winnall and Wenke Müller are currently carrying out their PhDs as part of the InnovaXN programme and are hosted by ILL (Institut Laue-Langevin, Grenoble – France). While Samuel specialises in reflectometry and molecular dynamics simulations, Wenke specialises in small-angle scattering, and is focused on kinetics and contrast variation. These two young and talented entrepreneurs, following their first steps into the large-scale facilities playground, decided to bring together their expertise and experience with neutron techniques to tackle modern industry problems.

This is the background to the concept of SoftWatersMatters, a scientific service company providing consultation on the characterisation of liquid based samples with small angle X-ray/neutron scattering. This service would not only enable clients to unambiguously identify the application range of their systems, but also improve the quality of their products through greater technical understanding.

But how to take this challenging project to the next level?

Through the ILL Newsletter, the students were informed about the CAROTS 2.0 STARTUP School 2022, which promised a 40-hour programme to be completed over four months. The scheme consisted of webinars, accompanied by coaching and mentoring, and culminated in a final pitch to CEOs, investors, and science experts (Learn more about CAROTS 2.0 STARTUP School here).

Once Samuel and Wenke learned about this opportunity, the action to be taken was clear: to submit an application for admission to the start-up school. Their project was one of only 10 projects accepted by CAROTS.

The programme kicked off in May 2022 and the students had the chance to learn, improve and expand their knowledge in several areas, ranging from the entrepreneurial mindset to business model creation, basic financial management, marketing and more.


What was the outcome?

On October 20th, the students held their final pitch and, once the presentation was completed, an interactive Q&A session started, during which Samuel and Wenke were tested on their business model and client strategy, amongst other topics, before receiving feedback from the panel. Here is some of the summarized feedback from the panelists:

“Nicely done, clean slides, personable and concise. Both of you come across as clear and confident in the pitch presentation and your specific focus on the needs of the clients will serve you very well.” Pegram Harrison – Senior Fellow in Entrepreneurship at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford.

“I am very impressed by the presentation and how you have developed the idea and strategy throughout the process. I definitely see the potential for SoftWaterMatters to complement the work we do at Xploraytion in the future.” Bernhard Hesse, CEO of Xploraytion and SoftWaterMatters mentor.

“Very well delivered and great to see another complementary scientific service company potentially entering this space.” Andy Beale, CEO of Finden and Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at UCL.

The CAROTS 2.0 STARTUP School not only laid the groundwork for SoftWaterMatters, but also took Samuel and Wenke towards their first steps of being entrepreneurs in an area useful to society. At the end of it all, the pair had the following to say:

Samuel: “The CAROTS school is a superb start-up incubator that has provided us with step by step insight into how to found and operate a company from world leading institutions such as the Saïd Business School and DESY, alongside a highly accomplished team of CEOs. I would highly recommend this programme for anyone interested in starting a scientific service company.”

Wenke: “Founding a company is certainly a challenge, more so if one has never learned about it before. Consequently, the CAROTS lectures and discussions with our mentor, Bernhard Hesse, have been invaluable to actually get going.”

Well done guys and good luck with your project!

Picture above, from left to right, Samuel Winnall and Wenke Müller.