Durham start-up launches successful academic research networking platform

A County Durham entrepreneur is set for success after launching his new online business with support from Durham City Incubator.

Networking platform, Scientistt, which provides a networking tool for research students and academic research groups, as well as promoting research opportunities, has seen a surge in users since its launch just over two months ago and the platform’s community now represents members from more than 30 major UK universities.

Durham City Incubator (DCI) is a six-month accelerator programme to help entrepreneurs boost their businesses and, like many other business support projects, is currently running remotely due to COVID-19.

The programme was set up in 2018 as a joint venture between Business Durham, Durham University, and New College Durham to support ambitious local entrepreneurs based in the county who have been trading for under 12 months achieve their goals.

Scientistt is one of seven County Durham businesses taking part in DCI’s third cohort who are establishing new, innovative products and services that could potentially disrupt the market.

Mahmudul Hassan, the founder of Scientistt and Durham PhD post-graduate, set up the platform because of a lack of transparency regarding research life. Recognising that researchers have three sources of information about work done in their chosen field: published literature, conferences, and their supervisor. Literature reviews, can only reveal completed work; relevant conferences can be infrequent; and supervisors mostly rely on these same sources.

Hassan said:  “It is very easy to become focused on the specifics of your own work and to lose a sense of what other related work is currently being conducted, especially by other graduate researchers.

“Our platform enables a community of passionate students and researchers to connect with others, voice their opinion, and get recognition for their work.”

“With the help of DCI we have been able to get the platform up and running quickly.  We have started to make some excellent links with universities and other companies quicker than we would have been able to without the programme.”

Networking is an essential part of the research process to promote collaboration, generate new ideas, and prevent duplication of effort.

In only two months Scientistt has produced a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), validated it and launched a beta version, with a total spend of less than £2000. This has been possible because of the work-ethic and well-balanced skillset of the team.

Scientistt are starting to collaborate with universities and related companies, such as Lifeology, an online provider of science courses in the USA, and research animation company, AnimateYourScience from Australia. It also has student ambassadors at various universities who advertise the platform through social media and emails and will use the collaborations and ambassadors to grow, as well as reach universities outside of the UK.

Sarah Slaven, interim managing director at Business Durham, said: “It’s fantastic to see Scientistt’s networking platform generating interest from both UK universities and overseas companies in such a short space of time since its launch.

“We are sure that Scientistt can continue to grow and scale up with the support of the DCI programme and we’re looking forward to seeing the innovative business thrive over the coming months.

“The DCI programme plays an important role in encouraging and supporting entrepreneurs to set up their businesses in Durham, and we can’t wait to celebrate the third cohort’s successes.”

Dr Tim Hammond, Director of Commercialisation and Economic Development at Durham University, said: “Keeping connected has never been more important and Scientistt is a fantastic platform for researchers to collaborate, connect, and build networks.

“Scientistt joins a number of successful start-ups from our students and graduates who have received invaluable support from the Durham City Incubator.

“The programme is clearly going from strength-to-strength and we look forward to seeing its future successes.”

Dawn Fairlamb, Vice Principal at New College Durham added:  “The DCI programme is an invaluable asset for young entrepreneurs and we are confident that many more graduates will take advantage of the quality facilities and first-class business support the DCI offers and ultimately become valued members of Durham’s business community.”

Scientistt has received investment from the North East Innovation Fund, supported by the European Regional Development Fund, and managed by Northstar Ventures that will enable them to develop and grow the platform.

Stephen Price, Investment Director at Northstar Ventures, which have provided investment that will enable Scientistt to develop and grow the platform, said, “Scientistt’s ambitious young team has identified a gap in the market for a digital platform that supports networking, collaboration and transparency within the global research community. The user engagement they’ve generated in such a short period of time is impressive and extremely encouraging for the future of their business.”

The Durham City Incubator was developed as part of a wider drive to grow the Durham City economy and to offer Durham University graduates and New College Durham students high-quality facilities and business support to grow their ventures in Durham City.

Durham City Incubator is part of Durham Internships and Collaborative Enterprise (DICE), which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Fund Programme.

DCI runs in cohorts that each last six months. For more information on the Durham City Incubator and to apply for the next cohort, visit dcincubator.co.uk.  


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