Imperial PhD student team wins White City Innovator’s Programme pitch final

24 Oct 2017

A team of Imperial PhD students that is using gene editing and automated processes to radically and predictably redesign plant variety development has won the final pitch in the autumn cohort of the White City Innovator’s programme.

Phytoform labs, founded by Will Pelton and Nick Kral, is providing a solution to a common problem for plant developers: it takes many millions of pounds and many years to run a crop improvement programme. Both founders are completing PhDs in the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London, and Phytoform is using knowledge derived from their research to predictably evolve plants over shorter timescales and at lower costs, providing an opportunity to market segments that had previously been unable to afford plant improvement programmes.

Phytoform will receive an £8,000 prize to develop the business alongside an additional support package that includes an Imperial White City Incubator virtual tenancy valued at £2,000. They were one of ten teams to deliver five minute pitches to a group of industry experts, at the final pitch event in the Imperial White City Incubator on Friday 20th October.


The runner-up in the pitching final was Kahoots, an app company founded by MBA alumni Byron McCaughey and Henry Oakes, who have recently completed their studies at Imperial College Business School. Kahoots is initially targeting the property market, providing first-time buyers with an intelligent tool set that will help them buy a property, taking into account differing salaries, parental contributions to the purchase amount, and other financial information.

The White City Innovator’s programme in partnership with NatWest is the Imperial Incubator’s flagship pre-accelerator programme. It aims to support the development of technology-focussed early-stage companies by providing funding, access to the Imperial College London ecosystem, free working space and training in vital business skills. It is open to young businesses across the UK, but with a special focus on the Hammersmith and Fulham council area.

Imperial Innovations has provided mentoring support to a number of teams in the programme, as well as offering space at the Imperial White City Incubator to teams taking part and making up part of the judging panel.