Meet the winners of the Jamie Ferguson Chemistry Innovation Awards 2023

The second year of the Jamie Ferguson Innovation Awards delivered ideas that tackle plastic waste, drug discovery, and bad coffee. The were established in 2022 by Oxford University Innovation (OUI) and the Department of Chemistry. Building on Chemistry’s legacy for innovation and impact, these annual awards are a platform for entrepreneurial students to create positive change and impact from their work.

The awards are named in honour of our late friend and colleague Dr Jamie Ferguson, Deputy Head for Physical Sciences at Oxford University Innovation, who tragically passed away during the COVID-19 pandemic. Jamie was a friend and mentor to many at OUI and supported the Department of Chemistry for over a decade, where his love of innovation and passion for entrepreneurial spirit helped Chemistry to become one of the most commercially engaged departments at Oxford.

  • The 2023 Jamies winners showcased a diverse range of groundbreaking ideas and demonstrated a remarkable commercial ingenuity. The winners are:
  • Jack Howley, for a safer and more cost-effective method for manufacturing quantum dots, promising significant advancements in this cutting-edge technology.
  • Clement Collins Rice, for a new approach to tailor-making polymers for the circular economy, addressing performance degradation during recycling and ensuring the preservation of desired characteristics.
  • Ryan Herold, for a novel approach to drug testing using enzymes, offering a more accurate representation of real-world conditions and providing valuable insights for drug discovery.
  • Elliot Bailey, for a novel approach to decaffeinating coffee, leaving it tasting like coffee, which is not commonly achieved with current decaffeination methods.

In addition to the four main awards, a special award was presented to Annina Lieberherr for her proposal to improve access to academic posters for the visually impaired. Her novel idea highlighted an important accessibility issue within the academic community.

The judging panel, consisting of renowned experts and industry professionals, including staff from OUI, Rawan Farwana from Oxford Science Enterprises, and Oxford Chemistry professors Kylie Vincent, Claire Vallance, Dermot O’Hare and Tom Brown, had the challenging task of selecting the winners from a pool of exceptional presentations. 

Each of the winners received a £500 prize, a commemorative trophy made by Chemistry’s glassblower Terri Adams, and support form OUI to further develop their ideas towards commercialisation and implementation.

Rev. Cath Spence, one of the judges from OUI, said:

The standard of presentation was phenomenal, with a high level of engagement and confidence displayed by the participants. It is truly inspiring to witness the entrepreneurial spirit and commercial potential emanating from these young researchers. The future looks promising.

The Jamie Awards are now in their second year. 2022 saw four winners – Katherine Laney, Amber Truepenny, Tobias John and Xingzao Wang – present ideas ranging from materials science to combatting disease, and promising developments are already happening.

Xingzao Wang reported that he has reached a preliminary agreement with Oxford Nanopore Technology to support his investigation into the compatibility of the photo-nanopore in their current MinION device.

Katherine Laney said:

The Jamies taught me a huge amount from the moment I applied. I have gained valuable insights into patents and guidance in pitching and have gone on to pitch to a number of people including Oxford Nanopore CEO Gordon Sanghera. I am currently working with OUI to begin the process of patenting, and hope to turn this technology into a scientific spin out company.

All the winners were strongly positive about their experience, and we hope that the awards continue to grow from strength to strength.

Mairi Gibbs, Chief Operating Officer at Oxford University Innovation, said:

Through his deep commitment to foster innovation at Oxford, Jamie left behind a legacy of impact which has seen some of the brightest ideas from Chemistry become reality. These awards celebrate that legacy by forging a path for future innovators in Oxford’s student body to have a positive impact in society. We are proud to support their journey and look forward to witnessing the realisation of their innovative ideas.