Startups HackScience and HipDynamics, two innovative startups from London universities with goals to disrupt the academic space, are the latest recipients of the Catalyst Grant

LONDON, UK: 18.00 BST, March 7th 2017. Digital Science, a business division of Holtzbrinck Publishing Group and a leading global technology incubator focused on jumpstarting innovation in the research community, today revealed the latest winners of its prestigious Catalyst Grant award: HackScience and HipDynamics have each been awarded a grant of up to £25,000.

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.


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.”

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. It’s also great to see the talent coming from London universities and we look forward to working with HackScience and HipDynamics as we move into 2017.”

Notes to Editors

The Digital Science Catalyst Grant

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 / $30,000 for the most promising ideas. To date more than $100,000 in grants has been awarded. The goal of the grant is to help entrepreneurs grow an idea from concept to prototype, working with Digital Science to refine, develop and promote their innovations to the wider scientific and technology communities.

Previous Grantees have included:

Norbert Schuff, Etalia

A platform that offers recommendations for papers and people based on a unique fingerprint generated from a researcher’s reference library

San Francisco based Etalia, is building a powerful cloud-based scholarly communications platform that empowers personalized literature searches and scholarly dialogues. Traditionally, scholars have limited resources to find relevant literature and to reach out beyond their peers and small ­networks of colleagues – often valuable intellectual input may be missed. Etalia have developed a unique digital platform that aims to make this process more efficient.

Ben Adams and Richard Hosking, Simiary

Software solution which boosts content discovery via intelligent search

Simiary is a software company that wants to improve content discovery by offering intelligent exploratory search and analysis software. The majority of scientific knowledge consists of unstructured data built for human consumption, in the form of publications, data abstracts, reports, grant submissions, blog posts, and even email mailing lists. Yet, the massive scale at which this data is generated limits what can be learnt from it. The organization of scientific knowledge has not moved with modern times so  finding and understanding of relevant information from this boundless content is a  problem that current tools are not equipped to manage. Simiary’s unique software automatically ingests and resolves these diverse types of unstructured data and thematically contextualizes the related content. This allows their users to discover relevant information quicker, form connections, and make new insights.

Juan Castro and Alberto Villar, Writefull

An online software application which provides editing and authoring guidance to enhance academic writing

Writefull promises to help users write with more confidence by allowing them to check words and phrases against databases of correct language, such as Google Scholar and Google Books. Using Natural Language Processing to extract patterns in written language, they offer accurate grammar corrections and sentence replacements specific to academic writing. Writing strong academic texts is challenging, particularly for non­-native speakers of English who make up the majority of researchers worldwide. A great deal of time can often be lost on editing and checking writing. Writefull, speeds up this process allowing researchers to work more efficiently. Writefull can be used in a researcher’s own working environment, as it operates in any writing tool such as Overleaf, Microsoft Word and Gmail.

Alok Tayi, TetraScience

Building a cloud-based laboratory that can accelerate scientific discovery  

TetraScience is a Boston-based technology company building an open Internet-of-Things (IoT) platform to enhance productivity, safety and reproducibility. By combining wi-fi connected tools and a cloud-based software platform, scientists can monitor and control their experiments from anywhere and upload the data directly to the cloud, thereby accelerating the research process.  Alok, alongside a team of serial entrepreneurs from Harvard & MIT, founded the company and explains that the Catalyst Grant funding is enabling his team to pursue their vision of a cloud-based laboratory that can dramatically accelerate scientific discovery. Digital Science has since gone on to invest in TetraScience.   

Suw Charman-Anderson, Ada Lovelace Day

An international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths.

Each year, Ada Lovelace Day (ALD) holds flagship science cabaret event in London, whilst around the world independent groups put on their own events. This year, Ada Lovelace Day Live! will be hosted by Conway Hall, the world’s oldest surviving freethought organisation, on 13 October. ALD is also aiming to encourage over 100 grassroots events across all seven continents.

James Harwood, Penelope

Improving the quality of scientific research reporting

Penelope, a London based technology company that wants to help publishers enhance the standard of scientific research reporting. They are building an automated editorial assistant that uses machine reading to check for common reporting errors and then gives instant feedback to authors, so editors can be certain that all received submissions meet the high standards set by journals, funders and academic bodies.

Michael Schmidt, Nutonian   

Creating a Robotic Scientist to See Patterns in Massive Data Sets

According to Michael Schmidt, CEO at Nutonian, Inc. and a former researcher at Cornell University, we often take the massive complexity in the world for granted. That’s why Schmidt is working on a new direction in artificial intelligence – the creation of a “robotic scientist” that can identify patterns in massive data sets unseen to the human eye. He and his team at Nutonian have set out to map the world’s data sets, calling it the “data genome project”. The goal is to collect one million data sets in the first year, analyze them in the cloud, find out what hidden equations lie in them and link them together. This innovative process will reveal road markers that will allow scientists to look back and see what they say about science and data in general. Schmidt says that “the Catalyst Grant Program has been instrumental, and that we wouldn’t have been able to do the project without it”.

Reuben Robbins, Grantee

Transforming neurocognitive research through technology

Reuben Robbins, a clinical psychologist at Columbia University, studies the neurocognitive aspects of HIV through research and neurological testing that requires extensive manual processing. Robbins realized that the interactive nature of the electronic touchscreen could reduce most of the manual processing and an online database could make test results available to his peers globally – transforming research in the field. The new platform affords clinicians instant results and eliminates manual processing to save time and ensure consistency. According to Robbins, funding typically comes through the federal government and is a slow process. “The Catalyst Grant is intellectual and emotional support with fast and flexible funding.”

Nathan Jenkins and Alberto Pepe, Authorea

Dynamic content and data-driven figures for scholarly papers  

Nathan Jenkins and Alberto Pepe, of the University of Geneva and Harvard University respectively, cofounded Authorea to bring the modern capabilities of the Web to the previously staid world of scholarly publishing. The Web at some level has transformed most mediums, but the scholarly paper has remained a mostly static document, until now. Authorea allows researchers to dynamically present insights and collaborate on research data in real-time, and gives readers the ability to interact with source data directly. For the first time, scientists will be able to not only read a scholarly piece, but easily understand how the researchers came to their conclusions based on the data, and use it themselves in future studies.

Digital Science is a technology company serving the needs of scientific and research communities, at the laboratory bench or in a research setting. It invests in and incubates scientific software companies that simplify the research cycle, making more time for discovery. Its portfolio companies and investments include a host of leading and admired brands including Altmetric, BioRAFT, Figshare, GRID, Labguru, Peerwith, Overleaf, ReadCube, Symplectic, TetraScience, Transcriptic, and ÜberResearch. It is operated by global media company, the Holtzbrinck Publishing Group. Visit and follow @digitalsci on Twitter.

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Laura Wheeler