The Big Prize for Small Companies with Global Ambitions in Engineering Biology

CustoMem wins £100K 1st Prize in Bio-start competition

Bio-start is an annual competition designed to commercialise the engineering of biology

For people and companies looking to solve significant global problems through synthetic biology

For teams building early-stage companies on a firm commercial foundation with strong business acumen

For people looking to challenge themselves, working outside their comfort zone, and coming together with others in the fast paced startup environment to make a difference

Bio-start promoters SynbiCITE and Rainbow Seed Fund have broad expertise in building and growing companies

Bio-start is a not-for-profit competition open to all industries


The latest news from Bio-start

Outline of the competition

  • The prize is an ~ £200k package
  • There is a £100k equity free cash prize
  • Six months’ free laboratory space
  • £25k laboratory consumables
  • £15k professional services
  • This is non-dilutive funding and no equity taken
  • There is no matched funding requirement
  • Access to 10-week accelerator programme of mentor and business support
  • All entrants accepted into programme will receive substantial mentoring and exposure to global business and VC network
  • The finalists will pitch at an evening ceremony in front of selected judges and invited audience. The event provides PR and networking opportunities for all those taking part in the competition
  • Companies and pre-start-up teams applying must not have raised more than £500k equity funding since their formation and must demonstrate access to IP

Scope of the competition

  • Bio-start seeks applications that will enable the UK bioeconomy to grow and thrive
  • Application areas can be in healthcare, agritech, clean tech, industrial biotech or any sector where engineering DNA is an essential component and makes use of synthetic biology
  • Applications must not be service provision based
  • Applicants do not need to be a company to enter, although to receive the prize the company must become solely incorporated in the UK
  • A key screening criteria to enter the competition is IP status; you will need to show you can license the relevant IP and have support from your TTO or employer
  • All first stage entrants should note the need to secure or demonstrate access to IP when applying


Cambridge Consultants Keltie Imperial Innovations Twist Bioscience Rainbow Seed Fund BioCity UnitDX Norwich Research Park Analytik jena

Stage 1

Summer 2016

Call for entries

Deadline for completed entries: 31st December 2016

Anyone can apply as long as they are willing to incorporate the company in the UK – if not already incorporated – and their competition entry is in scope. Applicants must submit a summary of the idea and the team members on an official entry form. Up to 25 entrants will be selected by independent assessors to enter Stage 2. Enrollment is limited, so please enter ASAP.

Stage 2

February – April 2017

Boot camp & Mentoring

The competition starts with a one-day boot camp of workshops and a networking session for teams and mentors to meet. Working with their mentors, teams develop the business plan and pitch deck. Teams self-managed, scheduling a minimum one hour per week with mentors. 2-3 mentors are allocated to each team by the competition.

Stage 3

May 2017

Semi-Final Competition Submissions

Teams work up a 10-slide pitch and a 5-page business plan. Of the 25 teams from stage 2, up to 10 semi-finalist are chosen to enter the final.

Final Judging

Finals Judging at the Award Ceremony

Selection of the winning entry will be made by an expert panel, Chaired by Sir Richard Sykes and including Dr David Lawrence, to which the semi-finalists will present. All semi-finalists present at the final award ceremony, where the winner will be announced.