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Proposal: Bio-Hackathon

For CUTEC to run a weekend hackathon for biological software, hardware and other applications in collaboration with startup companies and London Biohackspace.

The Idea

The Cambridge University Technology and Enterprise Club (CUTEC) has been running events to support young technologists for the last 13 years. This year our committee is passionate about supporting the transition from idea to prototype in biology and with this in mind we are running a Bio-Hackathon in collaboration with the London Biohackspace and with Bento Bio Works.

This year we have organised a space for members, a sustainable futures challenge and a technology conference. Last years sustainable futures challenge winners, Entemos, are now running a company that has attracted funding from NIAB and Innovate UK for their novel waste-to- fuel concept. The Bio-Hackathon would be a fantastic opportunity to inspire innovation in biology.

Who we are

This project will be run by CUTEC with the support and guidance of the London

Biohackspace who may also act as event hosts. Bento Bio will support by providing DIY bento lab equipment. Furthermore CUTEC is adept at seeking sponsorship and will seek local sponsors.

CUTEC (cutec.org)

London Biohackspace (biohackspace.org)

  • Edoardo Gianni 

Bento Bio (bento.bio)

  • Philipp Boeing
  • Bethan Wolfenden 

Implementation

This project will be coordinated as a collaborative effort between CUTEC and the London Biohackspace. Depending on the support available, different venues will be possible for the event, including the Cambridge University labs, the London Biohackspace the Hackney Lab or new Bio Futures Lab at Makerversity in Somerset House. We will seek to host up to 10 teams and run the event across the easter bank holiday weekend (28th March). The Bio-Hackathon will be run over three days, and it will allow the teams to start brainstorming, designing, building and testing an innovative biotechnological project. These will be aimed at addressing a set of problems, conceived in collaboration with industrial and academical supporters. Teams will be required to plan and coordinate activities to deliver a proof of concept of their project over the weekend. In order to allow a more significant advancement towards an initial prototype, we will use part of the grant to provide the required resources for the Bio-Hackathon, as well as seeking corporate sponsor for DNA synthesis, reagents and time on cloud laboratories such as Transcriptic.

We aim to attract diverse teams of PhD students, post-docs, bio-hackers and iGEM alumni from across the UK. This will require substantial advertising by CUTEC and partners in UK universities within and outside the South East. Rigorous applicant assessment will occur with teams limited to reasonable and safe occupancy ranges of the London Biohackspace or University labs. A supporting scholarship will be provided to participants with preference given to applicants from outside the London/Oxford/Cambridge area.

Teams will be assessed on their progress toward completion of presented problems. The winning team will be awarded a £1500 cash prize. We will also seek to include in kind rewards for project winners to help advance their research or entrepreneurial endeavours through co-sponsorship with companies who can provide access to workspace or cloud laboratories.

Benefits and outcomes

This project will support young biotechnologists to hone problem solving skills and work in teams. We believe that by utilising the Synbio Fund for a Bio-Hackathon we will be able to attract and catalyse further project in synthetic biology. Engaging students to engage in a grassroots initiative like this is exactly what catalysed the now wildly successful iGEM project. It is vital that young inventors and biology enthusiasts are able to develop and hone their skills close to home. We hope that this will be the first event of many.

Budget

Total - £5000

Prize money - £1500

Equipment and resources - £1500

Travel and accommodation scholarships for competitors - £2000

About

The Synthetic Biology Strategic Research Initiative provides a hub for anyone interested in Synthetic Biology at the University of Cambridge, including researchers, commercial partners and external collaborators. 

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