UK’s top women game changers get government backing

Four of the winners of Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation Awards 2022

In celebration of International Women’s Day today, 38 trailblazing female entrepreneurs have been recognised by Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation Awards.

The winners’ game changing innovations are tackling some of society’s biggest challenges, including:

  • a blood test that allows earlier diagnosis of ovarian cancer
  • wearable tech that acts like your own physio
  • ‘leather’ made from garden waste.

£50,000, mentoring and coaching

The female entrepreneurs, who come from all nations and regions of the UK, from Aylesbury to Dunblane, will be awarded a cash injection of £50,000 each.

They will also receive bespoke mentoring and coaching to enable them to scale up whilst bringing new, disruptive products and services to market.

Many of the winners’ business ideas have been borne out of a response to challenges emerging from the pandemic and to tackling major health challenges.

The race to net zero looms large for many of the winners. From a rental service to borrow maternity clothes to a community-driven logistics service that helps people volunteer to take deliveries for each other to minimise trips.

Diverse entrepreneurs

From finance to femtech and from healthcare to fashion, the diverse entrepreneurs being backed today as International Women’s Day encourages people to ‘break the bias’, include:

Shannon Beattie (26 years old), from Belfast

Shannon is developing a novel blood test for earlier and more accurate detection of the most common and aggressive form of ovarian cancer, accounting for over 70% of cases.

If caught in the early stages, the 20% survival rate increases to 90%.

Mira Nameth, from London

Mira is turning waste from our back gardens into green materials.

Her first product, Treekind®, uses leaves, twigs, and grass to create an alternative for leather.

Claire Buckle (41 years old), from Preston, Lancashire

Claire is a GB para-athlete who is using virtual and augmented reality to give people first-hand experience of the impact of living with a disability.

From the hidden challenges of using a wheelchair to what hearing is like if you have an impairment.

Nimrah Munir (28 years old), from Bathgate, Scotland

Nimrah is developing a first of its kind electric field therapy, GRACE.

GRACE can be implanted in the brain to treat Glioblastoma, the most common form of primary brain cancer in adults.

Claire Barnett, from Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire

Claire, founder of UN Women UK, is creating immersive training to change behaviour around sexual harassment and violence in public spaces.

Naomi McGregor (25 years old), from Ballymoney, Northern Ireland

Naomi has created a revolutionary wearable technology for athletes, which accurately tracks your movements in real-time on your smartphone.

It provides key data to help improve performance and reduce injury rate and recovery time, basically like having your own physio in your pocket!

Victoria Forrest, from Bristol

Victoria, founder of VIKA Books, is designing books that blur the boundaries between real and virtual formats, with embedded digital content.

Sparked by her own dyslexia and the challenges she had enjoying reading, her augmented reality books are designed to be accessible to everyone.

Alice Rackley (39 years old), from Llandudno, Wales

Alice is CEO of Polytag, a game changing technology that can trace all packaging through the circular economy.

It helps fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands and retailers take action and comply with the incoming plastic tax, with the aim that one day nothing will be sent to landfill.

Ali Gordon (46 years old), from Wakefield

Ali, founder of Eat Out Round About®, has developed a social dining app using which people can connect with friends and discover local places to dine out.

Places are based on where it will have the biggest local impact, helping re-build the hospitality sector post pandemic.

Andreia Trigo (39 years old), from London

Andreia’s mission is to cut down the time it can take to get a diagnosis of infertility and signpost people to support much earlier.

Born from her own personal experience of infertility, Andreia’s approach will help women create a personalised treatment plan to increase their chances of conception.

Mya Gooding-Springer (20 years old) from London

Mya, founder and CEO of the app Swap Shop, wants to make sustainable fashion more accessible by encouraging people to swap special occasion outfits that often end up as landfill.

Boosting number of female entrepreneurs

The flagship Women in Innovation Awards is a key part of Innovate UK’s commitment to boosting the number of UK female entrepreneurs.

If we could enable women to start and scale businesses at the same rate as men, it could add up to £250 billion to the UK economy. This was highlighted in the recent Rose review.

Now in its fourth year, Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation programme continues to support high-potential female business leaders from diverse backgrounds.

This year:

  • over a third of the winners are Black, Asian or from another ethnic minority group
  • 16% have identified as disabled
  • there are award winners in every nation and region of the UK.

Pioneering, resilient, and inspiring women

Emily Nott, Head of Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion at Innovate UK said:

It has continued to be a challenging year of uncertainty but these pioneering, resilient women inspire us to dream big and make an impact despite the difficulties we face.

Innovate UK will work alongside these winners to ensure they have the resources and support required to turn their innovative ideas and aspirations into a reality, while encouraging a new generation of women to come forward and pursue their ambitions.

Breaking down disability discrimination

Commenting on her award and her idea to give people first-hand experience of living with a disability, Claire Buckle said:

As a woman who has cerebral palsy, it often feels like my disability is seen first, then the fact I’m a woman, and only after that who I am and what I am capable of.

I’m hoping to break down the discrimination people with disabilities face every day.

My idea to create the disability awareness app was prompted by trying to explain what it was like to have a disability to my six-year old nephew. It feels like I’ve come such a long way from there, by winning this Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation Award today.

Growing businesses

Commenting on her award and business, Polytag, Alice Rackley, said:

FMCG brands and retailers produce and sell billions of pieces of single-use packaging every year.

Once the product is sold there is zero visibility, zero responsibility, zero culpability for what happens next, because no-one is able to track where it goes.

Polytag will enable brands to finally take action.

I am delighted to have won Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation Award and secured the support to grow our business.

Developing future innovators and businesses

Indro Mukerjee, CEO of Innovate UK, said:

We have an incredible opportunity to make a real difference to the talent and skills pipeline for UK business innovation by inspiring, involving and investing in greater diversity.

With practical actions like our Women in Innovation programme, we can help make a real difference to developing the successful innovators and businesses of the future.

Innovation is for everyone

Writing in the foreword to the winners’ brochure, Jo Shanmugalingam, Director General Science, Innovation and Growth at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said:

Innovation is, and must be, for everyone and I am delighted that the Women in Innovation Awards 2022 are bringing together the UK’s innovation community to rightly celebrate 38 of the most innovative women in the UK and their ground-breaking ideas.

I’m proud that these awards continue not only to support our fantastic female innovators to turn their ideas into valuable solutions to global challenges but also to inspire the next generation of women to follow their entrepreneurial ambitions.

Further information

About Women in Innovation

Innovate UK launched Women in Innovation in 2016, after research revealed that just one in seven applications for Innovate UK support came from women.

Boosting the number of female entrepreneurs could deliver £250 billion to the economy.

The award programme empowers female business leaders to develop commercially successful solutions to major social, environmental, and economic challenges.

Women in Innovation is part of Innovate UK’s commitment to promote greater diversity and inclusion in business innovation.

Each year, the programme identifies women with innovative, high-potential ideas and ambitious plans that will inspire others.

The programme is open to female founders, co-founders or senior decision makers working in businesses that have been operating for at least one year.

The award winners each receive a £50,000 grant and a bespoke package of mentoring, coaching and business support.

Since launching Women in Innovation, the number of women leading applications for Innovate UK support has increased by 70%.

The Women in Innovation Awards 2021 to 2022 will build on this success.

Find out more about Women in Innovation.

Top image:  Credit: Innovate UK

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