From additive manufacturing technology and a data modelling tool to transforming waste plastic into carbon negative construction materials, three top female business innovators, all receiving backing from the Women in Innovation scheme, are championing gender diversity in the sector, as Simon Edmonds discovers.
It has been inspiring to read details of the latest round of visionary female entrepreneurs to receive funding and support through Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation scheme.
The aim of the programme is to fund novel innovations and business ideas. The latest round of 40 winners will award the country’s top female innovators with a cash injection of £50,000 each. They will receive bespoke mentoring to scale up and bring to market their disruptive business ideas, many of which have been borne out in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Located across the UK, from Scotland to Salisbury, entrepreneurs currently receiving government backing include Alison Ettridge in her bid to help businesses attract the top female engineering talent, Anja Stolte who is revolutionising 3D printing and Natasha Boulding with her production of carbon negative building materials.
Women in Innovation
Alison will help businesses better attract, recruit and retain female engineering talent by developing a data modelling tool through Talent Intuition.
Alison is CEO and ‘chief believer’ at Cardiff-based Talent Intuition, which aims to give business leaders access to the data they need to make critical business decisions in areas such as skills supply, location planning and diversity. By analysing thousands of credible data sources through their Stratigens platform, her team is able to provide data evidence to help businesses develop strategies, anticipate problems and inform new market decisions.
Having participated in Innovate UK EDGE’s Scaleup Programme 2020, Alison will now bring an innovative approach to promoting gender diversity in the engineering sector.
The project will develop a model that analyses the flow of female engineering talent in the UK looking at aspects including the journey from education to professional role; career transition from industry to industry; and moves between companies. Not only will this help businesses better attract and retain female engineering talent, but Alison hopes it can go on to inform the government on the size of the gender skills gap, how this will likely change and model the potential options to increase female representation in the sector.
Natasha is transforming plastic waste into a carbon negative building material for the future through her business Sphera.
Natasha was attracted to the Women in Innovation Awards for both the personal growth opportunity and to enable her to explore new technology within the construction sector.
Her project will use Sphera’s patent- pending technology to transform waste plastic, which would otherwise be sent to landfill or incineration, into an aggregate for concrete and other construction materials.
Natasha, who is based in the North East and obtained a PhD from Durham University, believes innovation in both the concrete industry and plastic recycling is vital to improving sustainability. Currently, the concrete industry is responsible for 8% of global carbon dioxide production with 91% of plastic still not being recycled.
Anja is combining 3D printing with traditional casting to revolutionise additive manufacturing at Enable Manufacturing.
By combining the best of 3D printing with traditional casting, Anja is able to manufacture complex metal parts through what she describes as Additive Casting®. Her innovative approach uses industrial 3D printing to produce moulds from which she can cast parts using virtually any kind of metal. The technique eliminates the need for tooling and delivers high quality and complex products at a lower cost than current techniques.
Anja, who has studied at both the Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada and the Hof University of Applied Sciences, Germany, will focus her Women in Innovation Award on creating a data management and tracking system to further reduce lead-time for products made with Additive Casting.
It will provide a platform to monitor an order right through to invoice, automatically generating and sharing manufacturing data. By tracking and recording the manufacturing stages through the supply chain it gives complete visibility and traceability for the end customer. The project will support the commercialisation of the Additive Casting technology and fulfil the company’s ambition of being able to supply castings within four weeks, as opposed to the six to 12 months as is standard with traditional casting, providing a unique service to customers.
Anja, who is based in the East of England, says her Additive Casting approach should help UK business to innovate quicker, re-shore production and reduce carbon footprints.
Current funding opportunities
Driving the Electric Revolution: Supply Chains for Net Zero: UK registered businesses of any size can apply for a share of up to £22m for innovation projects focused on supply chain development for power electronics, electric machines and drives. The closing date for applications is Wednesday 30 June – for more information please see www.bit.ly/InnovateUKMay01
Simon Edmonds is Innovate UK’s Deputy Executive Chair and Chief Business Officer
2021 TMMX Awards – Delivered by The Manufacturer in partnership with the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), The Manufacturer MX Awards encourage manufacturing excellence, with categories ranging from recognition in innovation and sustainability, through to apprenticeships, leadership and staff engagement. Nominations are being taken now.