December 20, 2017, by Elizabeth Smith

No drought in innovation with Nottingham’s YES team!

“Supporting a culture of enterprise amongst ECRs is vital to our future prosperity” – Dr Dave Hughes, Head of Crop Protection Technology Scouting and Opportunity Evaluation at Syngenta

What ideas would you come up with if you had to create a hypothetical business model? Would you create a solution to climate change? Or a way to reduce the number of deaths caused by cardiovascular disease? Could you radically change the pharmaceuticals industry and make a male contraceptive pill the norm? With no prior experience of running a business, how could you use your academic experience to show business leaders what can be achieved?


The Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (YES) equips early career researchers (ECRs) to do exactly that. Now in its 22nd year, the annual competitions are specifically designed to allow ECRs to develop commercialisation skills, raise career awareness and appreciate how their research can bring positive impact to society and the economy.

During the YES finals, we saw pitches for a range of innovative business ideas and models, that focused on Bioscience, Engineering and Environmental Science. While all teams were absolutely fantastic, we did leave the YES finals feeling a little smug after The University of Nottingham entrant, Hygrow Ltd, were crowned winners of the Environment YES competition, as well as the ‘Best plant, microbial and environmental business plan’ prize, which was sponsored by Syngenta.

Hygrow Ltd pitched their idea for Chloroblast®, a chemical that would enhance crops’ natural protection against drought. In their theoretical market research, they claimed that 95% of the 1,000 farmers ‘interviewed’ would be willing to use the product and support Hygrow Ltd. The team envisioned Chloroblast to be sprayed onto leaves before a drought, to close the stomata early, allowing the crops to retain water and increase the harvest yield. The team had been mentored by the HGI’s very own Professor Rob Carroll, and it was great to see some interdisciplinary collaboration between the institute and the University’s talented ECRs.

“The YES experience was a fantastic opportunity that I would definitely recommend to all postgraduates. I have expanded my knowledge of business and can now see opportunities for both my own PhD and for my future career that I would never have considered before.

Both the workshop and the final competitions were great experiences where we were able to meet a wide range of people from patent attorneys, to successful entrepreneurs, to industry leading experts. Winning Environment YES was just the icing on the cake!” – Rhona Savin, CEO of Hygrow Ltd

We have been left feeling so inspired by the innovation of the University’s ECRs that were involved with YES, and are looking forward to many more years of finalists from The University of Nottingham.


The competition receives financial support from Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), GSK, Medical Research Council (MRC), Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), P&G, Syngenta and University of Nottingham’s Haydn Green Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (HGI).

Information about YES 2018 can be found here.

If you are an ECR based at The University of Nottingham, and interested in exploring how you can bridge the gap between your research and business opportunities, make sure you get involved with Ingenuity18. Applications are open until Friday 26th January. 

Posted in Competition