From education to employment

Imperial and McGill University showcase entrepreneurial talent

Top entrepreneurs from Canada’s McGill University visited Imperial this week, deepening ties between the two institutions.

Eight startups from McGill’s Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship toured innovation spaces at Imperial’s White City Campus, before pitching their ideas alongside their Imperial peers.

The main entrance to McGill University in Montreal
The main entrance to McGill University in Montreal (Credit: Flickr // Neil Howard)

The visit, organised with the Québec Government Office in London, formed part of McGill’s Startup Tour, which gives the most promising McGill startups the opportunity connect with global investors, mentors and fellow founders. It is the first time the tour has left North America.

During the visit, the teams toured Imperial College Advanced Hackspace – a unique facility which provides Imperial staff and student innovators with access to specialist prototyping and manufacturing equipment to help them develop new products and technologies. They also visited the White City Incubator, seeing labs and office space used by startups who are working within the I-HUB’s innovation and translation ecosystem.

Imperial College Advanced Hackspace

Imperial College Advanced Hackspace

Digitising traditional businesses

The McGill startups visiting Imperial ranged from innovative meal delivery services to state-of-the-art medical technologies. Among them was Turbodega, founded by Daniel Franco, Julio Castaneda and Katia HardGrave. They have developed a tool that improves competitiveness of small grocery stores in developing countries by providing access to better prices, fair credits and advanced analytics.

Bodega, Perú.

Bodega, Peru (Credit: Flickr // A.Davey)

Traditional small grocery stores, known as ‘bodegas’ in countries like Peru, often struggle to compete with modern convenience stores, the team explained. Because they are placing relatively small orders they end up paying high prices, and they can lack access to the data and analytics required to make efficient business decisions about their products. They also struggle to get access to affordable credit.

Turbodega creates a virtual group of Bodegas, collecting data from their sale and purchase transactions. It then leverages the size of this network and its data to provide better prices for the products they buy, fair lines of credit on their purchases and advice on the store and sales management using advanced analytics.

Three Imperial teams pitched their businesses as part of the event:


Bladebug, created by Imperial alumnus Chris Cieslak and Dr Nicolas Rojas from Imperial’s Dyson School of Design Engineering, is a multi-legged walking robot, designed for the inspection and maintenance of wind turbine blades. Bladebug would be able to walk along the blade surface to carry out maintenance and inspections – maximising the lifespan of the blades without the need to humans to undertake risky activities.



FreshCheck, founded by Alex Bond, John Simpson and Robert Peach, creating colour change products that indicate the presence of harmful bacteria or other contaminates. They have developed the first affordable test for surface contamination with a simple colour changing spray.


Puraffinity, formerly known as CustoMem, was founded by Henrik Hagemann and WE Innovate winner Gabi Santosa. . They are developing a new biomaterial which can capture and recycle hazardous micro pollutants found in industrial wastewater. Their product is designed to be used within existing infrastructure, avoiding the need to install expensive additional treatment processes.

Henrik Hagemann

Henrik Hagemann, co-founder of Puraffinity

Jihane El Atifi, Program Manager at the McGill Dobson Center for Entrepreneurship, said: The McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship is the hub of entrepreneurial activity at McGill, serving students, professors and researchers from all faculties—from Medicine to Music to Arts and business.

“At the end of the day, entrepreneurs all share a common goal to innovate and to make a positive impact and sustainable on our economy and society. Both locally and globally.

“It takes an ecosystem to build a culture of entrepreneurship, wrapping up the 2019 McGill Startup Tour in a city like London is always a Reminder to dream a bit bigger, take it back to Montreal and build some world class successes.

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