University’s business incubators spotlighted for help to brewing industry entrepreneurs

The National Centre for Universities & Business State of the Relationship annual report showcasing university-business collaboration across the UK, released this week has highlighted the BizzInn business incubator, run by University of Birmingham Enterprise, for its creative approach to helping two local entrepreneurs realise their ambition of reducing the amount of water needed to produce a pint of beer. 

Beer is the third most popular drink in the world after water and tea.  But it can take up to five pints of water to make just one pint of beer, much of which is used to clean out brewing lines in between fermentations.  

Entrepreneurs Max Swinbourne and Alex Smith designed a highly sensitive fluid sensor to detect when the brewing lines are clean.

They came to the BizzInn in 2017 with a prototype of this sensor, which could potentially help the global brewing industry save billions of gallons of water each year, and a request to help them find funding to develop their business idea further.

The BizzInn assisted their application for funding, and also arranged a mini-laboratory apprenticeship at University of Birmingham Enterprise’s other incubator, the BioHub Birmingham, which enabled them to test and perfect their prototype to the point where they could gain interest from investors. 

The pair set up a company, 4T2 Sensors, which by early last year had built its own laboratory, and attracted substantial international investment and gained interest from the global brewing industry.  

Max Swinbourne commented: “The most forward thinking breweries had been looking at ways to reduce water usage for several years, so we knew there was a market before we came to the BizzInn, and we wanted to develop our product quickly.  The BizzInn took us from idea to prototype to launch in a very short space of time.”

Dr James Wilkie, CEO of University of Birmingham Enterprise, commented: “Our incubators provide significant benefit to hi-tech entrepreneurs, particularly those with disruptive ideas, or who are entering complex markets where products need to be tested or validated.  We’ve been delighted to hear of the 4T2’s successes following their residency with us.” 

The State of the Relationship report is the NCUB’s annual temperature test of university-business collaboration by using ideas to simplify the innovation ecosystem, undertaking knowledge exchange of unusual topics or bringing value to a particular place or sector.

Submitted on 21/06/2019