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Queen Mary students win silver in Dragon’s Den for high-tech companies

A group of PhD students at Queen Mary, University of London have won second place and a cash prize of £2000 in a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style competition that aims to encourage entrepreneurship and find new start-up companies in the technology sector.

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Ad-Opt team win silver
Ad-Opt team win silver

The competition, supported by the Embassy of China, is in its second year and was judged by a panel of high-profile venture capitalists and scientists. Competing against 12 other teams in the final on Sunday 2 December, the team from Queen Mary called Ad-Opt, impressed the judges by combining their individual research on various aspects of improving engine design for planes and automobiles and translating them into business ideas.

One of the PhD projects focuses on building software programmes to improve the physical design of the engine and another examines how to enhance energy transfer to increase the performance of the engine. The team hope that the competition experience will act as a launch pad to forming a limited company to optimise the aerodynamic shape and design better engines for the future. These research projects, some of which are on-going, build on the School of Engineering and Material Science’s industrial links with Volkswagen, Renault and Rolls Royce Jet Engine.

Hassan Ali, who recently passed his PhD viva, and acts as Chief Technology Officer for Ad-Opt said: "The journey from scientific experiment to financial investment is a long road. The competition process has given us lots of opportunities, such as the chance to travel to China, where the semi-final was held, to support in developing our business ideas. This achievement is indeed a milestone."

PhD student Shenren Xu and CEO of the company, commented: “This has been a fun experience and a display of awesome teamwork. I'm grateful for the feedback and support from our fellow graduate students and friends from School of Engineering and Material Sciences, without which we would not have achieved anything."

The Ad-Opt team members are Shenren Xu, Xin Bai, Dandan Ren, Hassan Ali, and Faidon Christakopoulos.

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