Women in Innovation: Innovate UK’s campaign backing female creativity

Simon Edmonds reports on the success of Innovate UK’s strategy to boost support for the nation’s talented pool of female innovators. Plus, the important work of Open Bionics, which manufactures bespoke 3D-printed prosthetics for children.

Women in Innovation

Nine women with pioneering inventions have been awarded £50,000 each to develop and grow their business as part of Innovate UK’s next stage of our Women in Innovation campaign.

Supporting female innovators is a key commitment of Innovate UK, and registrations for funding from female innovators for our competitions have increased by 70% since our campaign started in 2016.

One of the nine winners is Dolores Sanders, founder and director of TotalControlPro. She is an inventor of a pioneering data-sharing system which helps to streamline small businesses’ manufacturing processes.

Innovate UK - Women in Innovation campaign

Women in Innovation 2019 Winners – (L-R) Debbie Wake, Fanya Ismail, Cintia Kimura, Dolores Sanders, Daniela Paredes, Alex Haslehurst, Sheana Yu, Agnes Czako and Jess Leitch.

Marking these outstanding contributions to innovation, Innovate UK has commissioned and installed commemorative plaques recognising each of the award holders in schools and colleges, to inspire the next generation of young innovators.

Bionic arm start-up secures £4.6m  to go global

Bristol-based Open Bionics will take its bespoke 3D-printed prosthetic arms to even more children and young people, after attracting £4.6m from investors.

The Williams F1 team’s Foresight Williams, Downing LLP and Ananda Impact Ventures co-led the investment with £1.5m each, with additional funding from Rathbone Nominees. This deal will allow Open Bionics to scale up its manufacturing capabilities to serve the UK and overseas markets, including the United States.

Open Bionics manufactures its low-cost, lightweight, adjustable bionic ‘Hero Arm’ using 3D printing – image courtesy of Open Bionics.
Open Bionics manufactures its low-cost, lightweight, adjustable bionic ‘Hero Arm’ using 3D printing – image courtesy of Open Bionics.

Prostheses for children and young people need to meet their changing requirements as they grow and be suitable for a diverse range of activities while they learn and play.

Open Bionics developed its ‘Hero Arm’ to meet this challenge. Using 3D printing, it has created a low-cost bionic arm that is lightweight, adjustable and offers multi-grip capabilities. Control is via sensors that detect and respond to movement in the upper arm muscles. The device can be used by children as young as nine-years old.

Development of the Hero Arm was supported by a contract with NHS England that used SBRI Healthcare – part of the Innovate UK Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) which helps innovative businesses work with big public sector organisations to implement new technologies.

Open Bionics was awarded almost  £700,000 to support clinical trials of its bionic limbs for child amputees. This helped to get the product medically certified.

It is now available through the NHS and other national healthcare systems, including in France and Germany, as well as private sales.

The business also enjoys commercial licences with Disney, Marvel and Pixar to accessorise its prosthetics with superhero characters and further its appeal to children.

Innovative ideas to change the world: new business funding

Innovate UK Smart funding has launched with a £20m grant competition for ambitious projects that could disrupt a global industry or market.

Smart grants are the latest programme from Innovate UK to de-risk innovation and enable business growth. They are for the very best ideas from business, no matter what field they are in, where they are from, and the stage of innovation – from testing the feasibility of an idea through to development and prototyping.

These should have a high potential for commercialisation within the UK and wider global markets.

The competition is open and the deadline for applications is at midday on 24 April 2019. Click here for more information.

Innovate UK

Simon Edmonds, director - manufacturing, materials & future of mobility, Innovate UK.

For more information on any of Innovate UK’s funding opportunities, please contact the customer support service:

Feedback! All feedback gratefully received. I can be found on Twitter: @SJSEdmonds

This article first appeared in the April issue of The Manufacturer magazine. Click here to subscribe