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Three Companies Aiming to Disrupt the Academic Space Win Our Prestigious Catalyst Grant

7th March 2017
 | Katy Alexander

Catalyst Grant from Digital ScienceToday we are proud to announce our latest Catalyst Grant winners – Figures, HackScience and HipDynamics, three companies aiming to disrupt the academic space.

The Catalyst Grant is an international initiative to support the innovation of new software tools and technologies for research. The program supports and invests in early stage ideas in the novel use of information technology in research, with an award of up to $25,000 for the most promising ideas to aid science and further education research.

A workflow solution to manage figure data including creation, tracking, editing and discussion – all on one platform.

A platform enabling scientists to create, share and control open and affordable lab automation tools.

A data set interrogation tool in the field of cell and molecular biology.

Steve Scott, Director of Portfolio Development at Digital Science said:

“Once again, we were overwhelmed by the number of applications to this round of the Catalyst Grant. It confirms our belief that the award is much-needed in the science and research space. Our three winners all exhibited that vital mix of having great teams, with a passion for their product and a clear vision on where they would like to take their ideas. We look forward to working with them and stepping up our support of Catalyst as we move into 2017.”


Figures is a web-based, collaboration app for creating, sharing, and disseminating scientific figures and raw data. It enables efficient figure design and sharing, gives researchers the ability to add detailed metadata, and provides in-context messaging in an effort to increase communication and accelerate research data velocity for research teams. Figures also enables researchers to integrate open data preparation into the research cycle by creating web-friendly shareable figures with strong data provenance.

Founded by New York-based team Xavier Armand, Dominic Benoscek and Chuong Nguyen-Thanh, Figures will use the Catalyst Grant to continue development of an API for figure analysis and data sharing.

Xavier Armand, Co-Founder, Figures said:

“Someone once said that scientific publications are figures held together by text. With this in mind, we’re building a solution with figures as the nucleus. The goal is to enable efficient figure design, organized raw data tracking, and collaboration.”


HackScience’s platform enables scientists to find and create affordable lab automation tools.  These tools are built by both HackScience and the community. Users can also use HackScience’s powerful software to easily control and monitor these tools remotely, without needing to code.

Most scientists spend at least half their time in the lab on manual lab processes. Science can be accelerated if work could be automated more cheaply and efficiently. However, lab automation is currently far too expensive for academic labs. Ali Afshar and Ignacio Willats from Imperial College co-founded HackScience after realising the potential maker technology could have on accelerating science.
Ignacio Willats, Co-founder, HackScience said:

“We are delighted to have won the Catalyst Grant! With this we can drive the development of our first set of tools to help automate the growing and counting of cells. We look forward to working with the Digital Science team”


King’s College London born, HipDynamics is an open source, data set interrogation tool in the field of cell and molecular biology. The software facilitates data visualisation and sharing through an intuitive dashboard, contextual analyses, offering data management capabilities between users and research groups.

It is increasingly difficult to integrate data from different sources and analyse them appropriately, not just due to their sheer size, but also due to the challenges in the interoperability between tools and formats. HipDynamics enables a progressively pervasive digitisation of laboratory data.

HipDynamics was founded by Maximilian Kerz PhD Student in Dept. of Biostatistics and Health Informatics at King’s College London and Davide Danovi, lead at the HipSci Cell Phenotyping Unit at King’s College London, as a way to tackle the problems around facilitating data integration.

Maximilian Kerz, Founder of HipDynamics said:

“Our vision is to enable the community to fully leverage their data and improve research outcomes. This is why we are thrilled to have received a Catalyst Grant and look forward to making HipDynamics a reality.”