Cancer Research UK partners with Venture Builder Incubator to drive innovation

Published date:
September 22 2021

Cancer Research UK has partnered with a University of Edinburgh business-support programme to help build startup companies focused on tackling cancer.

The charity will fund up to 10 participants in the second round of the Data-Driven Entrepreneurship (DDE) Venture Builder Incubator, which supports postgraduate students, postdoctoral researchers and academic staff to develop their startup ideas for three months. Cancer-related projects are expected to make up around half the incubator’s second cohort.

Student and staff researchers

Applicants can be PhD students and postdocs at the University of Edinburgh or Heriot-Watt University, or research staff from anywhere in the UK. Researchers do not need to be currently funded by Cancer Research UK to participate.

The DDE Venture Builder Incubator provides each team with £2,000, workshops, networking events, mentoring, one-to-one support and access to the University of Edinburgh’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. For the second round, the Incubator has also formed a partnership with FinTech Scotland to leverage its network to support entrepreneurs.

Edinburgh Innovations will manage the incubator, which will be delivered by the Bayes Centre on behalf of the University’s five Data-Driven Innovation Hubs.

City Region Deal funding

The incubator forms part of the ambitious Data-Driven Entrepreneurship Beacon Programme at the University to support post-Covid recovery. It is funded through the Data Driven Innovation programme of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal.

Iain Foulkes, Executive Director of Research and Innovation at Cancer Research UK, said: “As funders of much of the world-class, cutting-edge cancer research in the UK, we know how important it is that these discoveries make it out of the lab and into the clinic. Encouraging entrepreneurship in our researchers is key to achieving this, which is why we are excited to be a part of the DDE Venture Builder Incubator. Through access to bespoke training, 1-2-1 support and new networks to help them navigate the translation process, this incubator will provide a conduit for our most enterprising researchers to accelerate their life-saving discoveries into the hands of patients.”

Nile and edventure support

Applications are open until 1 October for the second cohort of the DDE Venture Builder Incubator, which begins in late November. Businesses will have a chance to win £5,000 at the end-of-programme Demo Day in March, when they will pitch their business plans in front an expert judging panel.

The delivery of the programme is supported by Edinburgh-based strategic design consultancy Nile, and edventure, a pan-European university venture builder and accelerator launched in 2020 by three Edinburgh students.

Record of success

The DDE Venture Builder Incubator’s first cohort saw 27 startups supported between April and July, ranging from apps to save time for teachers and support elderly family members, to robotic systems for sorting waste and monitoring the environment.

During their participation in the incubator, entrepreneurs recruited 23 new team members, formally incorporated four companies, developed seven minimum viable products and raised more than £250,000 in grants, awards and investments.

Dr John Lonsdale, Head of Enterprise Services at Edinburgh Innovations, said: “The Venture Builder Incubator has proven itself a powerful tool that sets innovators on a firm course to success as entrepreneurs. To partner with Cancer Research UK to support up to 10 of our teams adds a new dimension to the impact the Incubator will achieve.”

Cancer Research UK’s involvement in the DDE Venture Builder Incubator is part of the charity’s UK-wide programme of support for entrepreneurial activity.

Notes to editors


Gareth Overton
Communications Manager
Edinburgh Innovations
The University of Edinburgh
+44 (0)7772 396 552
[email protected]


Edinburgh Innovations

Edinburgh Innovations is the University of Edinburgh’s commercialisation service. EI leads the University’s activities in industry engagement and business development, enterprise support for students and staff, and the identification, management and commercialisation of University intellectual property.

About Cancer Research UK’s Commercial Partnerships Team   

Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research. Cancer Research UK’s specialist Commercial Partnerships Team works closely with leading international cancer scientists and their institutes to protect intellectual property arising from their research and to establish links with commercial partners. Cancer Research UK’s commercial activity operates through Cancer Research Technology Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Cancer Research UK. It is the legal entity which pursues drug discovery research in themed alliance partnerships and delivers varied commercial partnering arrangements.