UK Prof Brings Non-Sticky Gum

Interesting article from the IHT, highlighting difference between tech spinoffs in the US and the UK. The lead is about a Prof who is trying to create non-sticky chewing gum (to benefit cities and others that must continually remove gum from sidewalks — easier than caning people like they do in Singapore).

The inspiration for Cosgrove’s non-stick chewing gum came on a trip to academic conferences in the United States – not in a conference hall, but on American sidewalks, where he noticed wads of hardened chewing gum. “You think perhaps it’s pigeon poo,” he recalled.

He added, “I came home, and as things go round, I tried to make a polymer, to get as low an adhesive quality as possible.”

Eventually, his team came up with a formulation of polymers that would not stick. To determine whether it came off sidewalks and other surfaces, they pitted it against standard chewing gums on main streets across western England. While the other gums stuck, Cosgrove’s rinsed off with rainwater – “though some surfaces are better than others,” he said, calling leather a “terrible” magnet.

Despite those promising results, Cosgrove still had no interest in starting a business. Roger Pettman, an entrepreneur with a doctorate degree in organic chemistry, had to coax him.

Pettman had taken ChiRex, a pharmaceutical start-up, to an initial public offering on the Nasdaq before it was acquired in 2000 by the French chemical maker Rhodia.

When Bristol University held an enterprise competition in the summer of 2005 to showcase research at the school, Cosgrove’s chewing gum won. Having raised seed money from the university to get started, he raised $1.5 million in a first round of fund-raising from several venture capital funds. Last February, a group of venture capital funds led by Swarraton Partners pumped another $4 million into Revolymer.

This is a really interesting piece and worth the read, however, it again confirms my suspicion that when people think of entrepreneurship and new venture development on the campus they are only thinking tech and tech transfer.

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