Competition jackpot for bio-sciences firm

A team of entrepreneurs from the Norwich Research Park was last night unveiled as one of the winners of a £1m competition for leading edge businesses.

Chameleon Biosurfaces – which is developing coatings designed to improve medical implants – is one of six ventures sharing the jackpot after being announced as joint winners at a ceremony in Newmarket.

The competition, Running the Gauntlet, was co-ordinated by the East of England Development Agency (Eeda) and the funding for the winners will be provided by Create, a £20m venture capital fund that specialises in investing in businesses in the east of England.

The breakdown of the £1m has to be finalised, but last night Chameleon chief executive David Hollinworth said: “Based on our initial discussions, I think we will be taking on the services of a research and development manager based in Norwich.

“But whatever happens, we’ve definitely got a good home for the money! We were always quietly confident but I am just so pleased for my scientists because it’s a great vote of confidence in them.”

Dr Hollinworth added: “I am excited and very relieved as well. I do feel a certain degree of responsibility because I am in charge of bringing in the investment – if there’s no investment, people don’t get paid.”

Nearly 400 companies registered for Running the Gauntlet. More than 200 of them completed their entries, and 50 were shortlisted, including 10 from Norfolk and north Suffolk.

A series of workshops, clinics and masterclasses prepared them for their Dragon’s Den-style pitches to the panel of investors, which was chaired by Create’s Boyd Mulvey and Doug Richard, of research firm Library House, another partner in the competition.

The other five successful companies at last night’s ceremony came from Huntingdon, Cambridge and Hertfordshire.

Eeda chairman Richard Ellis said: “From what our Running the Gauntlet entrants tell us, they have all learned a great deal from the programme, regardless of whether they secured investment.

“It will be fascinating to see how this year’s winners develop and grow in the months and years ahead.

“The three companies that secured investment last year have gone on to secure a total of more than £3m in 12 months; if this year’s winners develop in a similar way, we will really start to see the long-term benefits.”

Library House chairman Mr Richard said: “Over the past weeks and months we have seen many good and promising companies take advantage of the educational opportunities and advice offered through Running the Gauntlet.

“Tonight’s winners grasped this chance and turned it to their advantage. It is this ability that defines the successful entrepreneur.”

Yesterday’s win is just the latest piece of good news for Chamelon. It recently secured funding of up to £475,000 from a syndicate of investors.

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