Frustrated by the poor translation of university research into the real world, four years ago I founded a startup accelerator called Future Worlds at the University of Southampton. The mission was simple: to help aspiring entrepreneurs at the University change the world with their ideas by growing an on-campus startup culture. Four years later and we’ve helped over 250 entrepreneurs who’ve launched over 50 companies between them. We’ve built a network of around 100 mentors and investors and launched a purpose built space that supports 15 startups in our six-month accelerator program.
Shortly after starting the initiative I was astounded to discover that the UK had no University presence at CES, despite there being a designated ‘University Innovations’ section in Eureka Park. Desperate to change that I took Future Worlds to CES in 2016 and we’ve returned every year since. Running world leading research programmes is all very well, but their results need to get into the right hands to really make a difference. The academic currency of paper writing solves part of the problem but these are rarely consumed by the companies capable of taking such innovations to market. And that’s where CES comes in.
This year we’re showcasing 30 spinouts and startups from the University of Southampton and we have 9 of our founders joining us on the stand. AudioScenic are launching their laptop sized 3D audio soundbar at the show which creates an immersive audio experience for gamers. Highfield Diagnostics is able to pattern multi-channel medical diagnostic tests onto a single paper strip using a laser technology. And IDTEX are able to embed wash-resistant RFID tags into fabrics so that high end fashion brands can combat counterfeit goods.
And we ourselves use innovation to stand out against thousands of other booths in the crowed halls of CES. We designed a custom flyer holder topped with a Future Worlds arrow that twinkles in an engaging way. We’ve built a live video streaming solution that drives two enormous screens and allows us to play one of our startup videos at the touch of a button, or stream live demos from a roaming ipad. And this year we have also developed what we affectionately call the Future Worlds Medallions – glistening battery powered Future Worlds arrows that hang on a lanyard around our necks and let us wirelessly call team members to the stand.
But does attending CES really help our entrepreneurs change the world with their ideas? Well, four years of data tells us the answer is a resounding yes! Last year at CES I forged a relationship with SkyDeck, the incubator at the University of California, Berkeley and we’ve seen four of our student startups reach great success in Silicon Valley as a result. Three of the startups we bought to the stand last year received offers of investment and this year looks to repeat that success. The profile of the University has grown internationally, not just among some of the world’s largest companies but also with our own government’s Department of International Trade, who have given us more and more support each year. So my advice to other UK universities is to go ahead and register for CES2020, so that next year we can dominate a section of Eureka Park and collectively showcase the best of British research innovations to the world.
Find Future Worlds at Stand 51560, Eureka Park
For more information, please visit www.futureworlds.com