University of Reading Early Career Researchers Triumph at Royal Society Finals

14 December 2018

University of Reading Early Career Researchers Triumph at Royal Society Finals

On 11 December 2018 a team of four University of Reading Early Career Researchers (ECRs), supported and mentored by Henley Centre for Entrepreneurship, the Knowledge Transfer Centre and VitalSix, grouped together to win the 2018 Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (YES) 'Environment' category.

The team was made up of Simona Grasso and Natalie Masento, who are both IFNH PDRAs working on EIT Food projects, Andrew Goodall, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow from the School of Agriculture, and Esmie Wescott, a PhD Student from the School of Chemistry. The team conceptualised a company known as ‘MooFree’, who use genetically modified yeast to produce dairy, tapping into a highly topical issue given the recent increase in interest in plant-based or vegan diets.

The MooFree team were invited to the YES 2018 Final, held at the Royal Society, after impressing at the ‘Plant, Microbial and Environmental’ themed workshop, hosted by Syngenta on 17-19 October 2018. Simona, Natalie, Andrew and Esmie were one of 12 teams competing for a coveted place in the Final and successfully pitched their idea to the judging panel.

YES helps develop business awareness and an understanding of entrepreneurship in UK postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers. This goal is achieved through a competition in which participants prepare a business plan for a hypothetical company. As well as developing enterprise skills, YES encourages creative thinking in order to produce innovative solutions to major challenges, teaches how to communicate research with impact, and enhances work-ready CVs.

YES is now entering its 24th successful year and has a network of active alumnus totalling nearly 6,000. In 1995 the first team to win the inaugural competition was from the University of Reading and the winners of the 2017 YES were also from the University of Reading, picking up the award for the Best Healthcare Business Plan.


Reflecting on winning the competition, Dr Andrew Goodall said: “Taking part in YES 2018 was a fantastic experience and showed us what goes on behind the scenes when commercialising scientific ideas. The transferable skills and knowledge we have gained will be useful in our future careers and are something that we wouldn’t have been exposed to without this competition.”

Professor Parveen Yaqoob, Pro Vice Chancellor (Research and Innovation), was similarly enthusiastic about the team’s success: We are extremely pleased to support the YES Competition again this year and I am thrilled that our innovative young researchers at the University of Reading have come home with two awards. This outstanding achievement not only reflects our excellence in food and agriculture research but is also testament to the talent that is nurtured through entrepreneurial programmes at the University.”

Further details can be found here and #YES19 will open for entries early spring 2019 with residential workshops at GSK, Syngenta and Unilever. If you have any queries, please contact the Knowledge Transfer Centre via Dr Simon Cutler on

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