A female-led biotech firm which has developed a sustainable material designed to revolutionise the production of medical devices has been named the winner of a competition hosted by Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce.

SymbioTex Ltd came out on top in the Women Entrepreneurs Pitch Competition following a successful pitch from founder and CEO Olivia Simpson (pictured). More than 40 women-led SMEs and start-ups entered the competition – organised by the GBCC, in partnership with NatWest and British Business Bank – with four finalists securing the opportunity to pitch to an expert judging panel at the Birmingham offices of law firm Browne Jacobson.

The judges were Paul Faulkner of RCL Partners, Hannah Tapsell Chapman from Mercia Asset Management and Elizabeth Hobster of Midven. After a round of pitches and questions, Wolverhampton-headquartered SymbioTex emerged as the judges’ ‘one to watch’.

SymbioTex uses sustainably cultivated seaweed to produce home compostable filaments and pellets for the creation of cosmetic pots and medical devices such as inhalers. The cosmetic packaging sector produces 120 billion units a year, of which less than 14 per cent reach recycling plants and less than nine per cent are recycled.

This results in a large volume of cosmetic packaging and single-use medical devices ending up in landfill. But SymbioTex says its mission is to “disrupt this harmful cycle” by revolutionising the production of such items which are currently made from single-use plastic.

Judges praised Olivia’s “clear and well delivered pitch” and the company’s “amazing area of action”. The competition’s other finalists were CyteCount, a University of Warwick spinout who created an innovative bacteria detection device, Essench, an ethical manufacturing service for the cosmetics sector, and Safe Queen, a tech platform allowing members of the public to rate the safety of hospitality venues.

Henrietta Brealey, chief executive of the GBCC, said: “Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce is here to unleash the potential of the city-region’s businesses.

“We know how important access to investor networks and platforms to celebrate our innovative and high growth potential businesses are for ensuring business success. We also know there's still a great big gender gap in entrepreneurship and access to investment.

“We have been delighted to work with NatWest, the British Business Bank and West Midlands Women in Business Taskforce on this Pitch Competition. The businesses presenting on the night were all phenomenal emerging leaders in their fields.

“We had over 40 women-led businesses apply for this competition representing a very wide range of sectors, products, services and stages of their business journey. We look forward to continuing to champion entrepreneurship and connect businesses to our networks, expertise and partners.”

The Women Entrepreneurs Pitch Competition was designed to showcase the best of the region’s women-led SMEs and start-ups and address some of their barriers to growth. According to The Gender Index, just 13 per cent of West Midlands-based companies receiving angel investment and 2.5 per cent of those receiving VC investment so far this year are female-led.

Harinder Kunor, regional ecosystem manager at NatWest, said: “The Women Entrepreneurs Pitch competition has been a showcase of remarkable and innovative businesswomen, who are leading Greater Birmingham’s entrepreneurial community.

“Helping women-led businesses to scale and succeed is key to stimulating a strong and sustainable local and national economy, which is why we are so proud that the NatWest West Midlands Women in Business Taskforce is a key partner in delivering this event. We’d like to congratulate all of the businesses who pitched and secured investment and we are excited to watch them grow with this support.”

Tracy Sherratt, UK senior network senior manager (West Midlands at British Business Bank, said: “The British Business Bank is delighted to partner on the ‘Women Entrepreneurs Pitch Competition’ event, which looks to break down any barriers by further supporting women in the West Midlands to unlock their startups’ potential through investment opportunities, expert advice and the chance to meet like-minded entrepreneurs within the region.”