University Enterprise Zone awards funding to AI-driven start-ups

  • Date

    Tue 3 Nov 20

Innovation Centre sign

The Space to Grow programme has supported four innovative start-ups to secure a significant slice of funding from the University Enterprise Zone Fund managed by the University of Essex with more funding opportunities on offer later this month.

The four companies, which are all using artificial intelligence (AI) in different ways to develop new products and services, are all on the Angels@Essex equity investment platform and secured early-stage funding through a competitive pitching process supported by Space to Grow.

Both Angels@Essex and Space to Grow are key elements of Essex’s University Enterprise Zone, which is funded by Research England and designated by the Government as a regional centre for nurturing and supporting new digital and creative businesses.

The final amount awarded has not yet been disclosed as another round of pitching later in November will see more businesses bidding for support from the UEZ Fund, which is worth a total of £150,000.

The four successful businesses so far are:

  • Bidnstay – which is developing a unique piece of auction technology to sell unsold accommodation.
  • WYSPR – which describes itself as the world’s first friendvertising and social data collection agency. Its bespoke crowd-promotion service is designed to provide a data driven alternative to Influencer marketing and market research.
  • Conigital – which is developing retrofit software for driverless vehicles.
  • Citispotter – which is developing a proprietary content analysis engine to help businesses identify, monitor, and reduce their harmful content in communication channels.

Getting businesses investor ready

All are early-stage enterprises seeking funding to develop their innovative ideas. The funding comes from the UEZ Fund managed by the University of Essex and was awarded following a highly competitive pitching process.

All the successful businesses received investment readiness pitch training and support from the Space to Grow programme team, based at the University’s Knowledge Gateway, Innovation Centre. Due to the high quality of their presentations, they were also invited to pitch to the Cambridge Angel network.

Angels@Essex is an FCA compliant equity investment platform that allows registered investors to view and engage with opportunities from invited innovators. Support is provided to both parties to ensure the best fit. More than £500,000 has been pledged to opportunities by registered investors since its launch in early May 2020.

Emma Johnson CEO of Bidnstay Ltd, said: “Thank you for your support with the Essex pitch. So excited to finally be getting this off the ground.”

Pallav Sethiya Joint Founder of Citispotter Ltd, said: “We are extremely grateful to the University of Essex for giving us this opportunity and connecting us to the right people.”

Supporting ambitious businesses

Business Support Manager John Stenhouse said: “The Space to Grow programme is all about supporting ambitious early stage businesses which have the potential to transform their sectors.

“We’re really proud to have supported these four businesses to refine their approaches to pitching for investment and to connect them with investment opportunities and new funding sources. We have a programme of outstanding webinars coming up in November to get more businesses investor ready by giving them access to leading experts.”

Find out more on both the Space to Grow Investment Readiness programme and Angels@Essex equity investment platform, visit the University Enterprise Zone website. For further information, please email us:

Space to Grow events coming up

Getting Yourself Investor Ready Presentation on Innovation Model Canvas

Speaker: Simon Atack, EEN East, Wednesday 4 November - 2pm to 4pm. Join on Zoom

Pitching Opportunities - live 4 minute presentations

Speakers: William Millar & Nitin Patel, University of Essex, Wednesday 11 November - 2pm to 3pm. Join on Zoom