University of Birmingham alumni raise £800k for auto-grading platform

The former students hope the funds will help further commercialise their time-saving software platform, which is already being piloted at six universities across the UK 

Three former University of Birmingham students that developed STEM coursework grading software have raised £800,000 to help expand their business.

The funding has come from angel investors, the Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF), managed by Mercia – a specialist assist manager with 19 university partnerships – and Mercia’s own Enterprise Investment Scheme.

The software – known as Graide – is the result of a PhD thesis written by Birmingham alumni Robert Stanyon. He and co-developers Manjinder Kainth and George Bartlett recognised the need for the system while working as teaching assistants during their postgraduate studies.

The developers estimate the technology reduces the time taken by teachers to mark maths and science papers by 89%. It is being trialled in six universities.

Graide is aimed at higher education institutions and can be used to mark both coursework and exam papers for STEM subjects.

The system, which incorporates artificial intelligence, learns an assessor’s marking style so they do not have to grade the same answer twice. As the assessor works through the paper, Graide automates more and more of the feedback.

The developers have also set up a company to commercialise the software.

6 Bit Education is based at the Birmingham Research Park on the University of Birmingham campus. The funding will enable the team to expand by creating two new jobs, as well as adding new features to the platform.

As part of the investment, Mercia has introduced two edtech specialists from its non-executive director network.

Andrew Doyle has been appointed as chair while Tony Austwick joins as an adviser. Both have significant experience in early and growth stage technology companies, and the education sector.

Manjinder Kainth, CEO of 6 Bit Education, said: “Providing high quality feedback is essential for students, but it’s time-consuming to deliver and can be plagued by inconsistencies. Graide addresses this challenge.

“This investment will accelerate our traction by increasing the size of our commercial team. It will also fund some exciting features on the product roadmap that could see Graide extend from science and maths departments to roll out across the whole campus.”

The Midlands Engine Investment Fund and Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund projects are supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

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