TRANSNET students join the Conception X Programme

Three of our research students, Chris Parsonson, Zak Shabka and Robin Matzner, from the Optical Networks Group at UCL, have been accepted onto Conception X – a venture programme that helps PhD student launch deep tech startups.

Conception X enables PhD candidates to explore entrepreneurship as a career choice alongside their degree. The programme helps students launch deep tech startups based on their research and receive enterprise training designed for scientists and engineers. TRANSNET members Chris Parsonson, Zak Shabka and Robin Matzner are one of the teams making up the 2021 cohort of successful Conception X applicants. They plan to develop a project called NP-Deep which aims to automate logistics problems in networked systems with artificial intelligence.

In their research, Chris, Zak and Robin explore AI-based methods for the optimisation of optical network systems. By participating in Conception X, they intend to apply their knowledge to the general area of logistics, building a platform that can be used to automatically solve a variety of problems in networked systems. They anticipate the technology being used across a range of sectors from data centre management to manufacturing and supply chain coordination.

About joining the programme, Chris, Zak and Robin said:

"Conception X gives us the best opportunity to learn how to commercialise our research and successfully launch our deep tech startup. It provides us with a productive environment in which we will be able to connect with mentors, industry partners, collaborators, and potential clients and investors. The programme is also unique in its accommodation of our goal to continue our PhD research alongside the venture."

Conception X started in March and runs for nine months. Members will attend a mixture of coaching, training and community events to help progress their projects and entrepreneurship skills. The programme ends with a finalist demo day where, if shortlisted, teams will have the opportunity to present to investors and industry experts. 

By the end of the programme, Chris, Zak and Robin hope to have successfully developed their product and to have established initial client and investor interest in their technology. We wish them the best of luck!


Robin Matzner is funded by EPSRC and Microsoft Research, and supervised by TRANSNET PI Polina Bayvel. Christopher Parsonson is funded by the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Integrated Photonic and Electronic Systems, and supervised by TRANSNET Co-I Georgios Zervas. Zak Shabka is also supervised by George but funded by and EPSRC Industrial CASE studentship. 

Chris, Zak and Robin have been members of the TRANSNET Programme since 2019.