Gill Oliver looks at the companies coming together to drive technological innovation

The stylish, brightly-coloured laptop and mobile phone covers wouldn’t look out of place in a fashionable boutique.

But rather than just eye-catching accessories, they are an Oxford firm’s ingenious way of helping raise awareness and cash for research scientists around the world. was one of several new ventures demonstrating at a Start-Up Demo event during Digital Oxford Week, which ended on Sunday. Like all the best ideas, this one is simple but hugely effective.

Co-founders Nikolaus Wenzl, Dominique Piche and Hind Kraytem are sent images from scientists all over the world, which they transform into T-shirts, tote bags, laptop and phone covers.

Designs include much-magnified butterfly wing scales and giant-scale nanotubes.

Using its website, social media and other means, publicises their research and gives 15 per cent of profit from sales back to the scientists to help fund their work.

Ms Kraytem, 23, who has studied bioscience enterprise and biomedical engineering, said: “We create products based on researchers’ stunning scientific images but also explain the work of these talented scientists by telling the story behind it, why it is important and how it could impact on us in the future.”

Another bright idea on show last week was Oxford-based mothers and co-founders Clare Wright and Susan Burton, whose online social network helps parents team up for the school run, play dates or children’s parties.

With schools unwilling to give out contact details because of confidentiality issues, the venture offers a way for mums and dads to connect with other parents in their child’s year group.

Ms Wright said: “It’s a private and secure way to communicate with other parents. It’s possible to use schoolclasslist and still keep private email and phone numbers hidden, if wished.

“We designed this for primary schools, because that tends to be when parents are managing their children’s lives the most but we found it also works well for secondary school age.”

Parents can opt to post their school-run route up on, so that if there are others doing the same trip, they can arrange to lift-share, a facility that is popular with schools who are struggling to deal with congestion problems.

Other concepts on show included early-warning flood alert Oxfloodnetwork, detailed ski map app, supply management software Elements and internet of things venture M2M Cloud Factory.

Prolific Academic uses tech to find participants for online studies, while labstep offers scientists software to help them better organise research findings.

All this is further proof, if any was needed, that Oxford’s digital start-up scene is thriving.

Ben Mumby-Croft, who has just joined Summertown-based digital agency One, has spent the past three years working with digital enterprise at City University, near London’s digital heartland, so-called silicon roundabout.

Before that, he was based in Cambridge, so is in a unique position to judge how Oxford compares to the rest of the UK when it comes to digital start-ups.

He said: “Going back a few years, Cambridge always had more of an entrepreneurial/start-up type scene – Oxford didn’t have many grassroots and self-organised meet-ups.

“But now, although it’s still a few years behind, Oxford is a very exciting place to be, because you have this emerging scene. London is only an hour away, so if you are looking for investment, you can make use of the London cluster but still be based here.”

Back at Digital Oxford Week, another entrepreneur proving new tech is the key to solving old problems is Denis Radenkovic, from Witney, who came up with the idea for after picking up his three-year-old daughter from nursery.

His free app gives parents a live feed about their baby or child while they are at nursery or with a childminder or nanny, including regular updates about when they have had their last nap, feed, medication or nappy change.

Mr Mumby-Croft, who helped organise the Start-Up Demo, believes while making excellent progress, Oxford could take a tip from the silicon roundabout scene, which tends to be more focused on impromptu gatherings.

He added: “What I would like to see in Oxford, is more of the buzz and energy you get in London.

“Let’s shake it up a bit and get more of a pirate spirit going.”