Purple plaques celebrate female innovators on #IWD2019

08 March 2019

From top to bottom, left to right: Dolores Sanders, Sheanu Yu, Daniela Paredes Fuentes, Alex Haslehurst, Debbie Wake, Cintia Kimura, Agnes Czako, Jessica Bruce and Fanya Ismail with their purple plaques.
From top to bottom, left to right: Dolores Sanders, Sheanu Yu, Daniela Paredes Fuentes, Alex Haslehurst, Debbie Wake, Cintia Kimura, Agnes Czako, Jessica Bruce and Fanya Ismail with their purple plaques.

Nine purple plaques have been installed to celebrate the achievements of pioneering female inventors after a nationwide search. The commemorative plaques have been placed across the UK to recognise the winners of the 2019 Women in Innovation Awards, announced by Business Secretary, Greg Clark on International Women’s Day.

Nine women with pioneering inventions – including a responsive wheelchair app and a new waterproof coating to cut down single use plastic – have been awarded £50,000 each to develop and grow their business, as part of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Innovate UK competition.

These women are tackling some of the biggest challenges facing society as set out in the government’s modern Industrial Strategy – from meeting the demands of an ageing society to developing a cleaner economy.

The winners being awarded funding include:

•   Sheana Yu, who is developing a device built into wheelchairs, where movement is monitored and air cells are automatically inflated and deflated ensuring better posture and comfort;
•   Debbie Wake, who is offering diabetes patients a digital health app, so they can monitor and receive advice for treatments ‘on the go’;
•   Agnes Czako, who is creating a state of the art home ventilation system to help reduce a home’s heat demand, resolve damp and condensation issues, and cut energy bills. It uses ‘smart tech’ airbricks that use a simple open and shut mechanism, where the brick regulates airflow and ensures the right level of ventilation;
•   Fanya Ismail, who has developed a chemical process called ‘sol-gel’ which produces solid materials from small molecules that will make disposable coffee cups waterproof without the need to use plastic.

The winners will receive £50,000 each and a year-long package of bespoke support, coaching and mentoring.

Business Secretary, Greg Clark said: “I would like to congratulate all these women on developing inspiring and pioneering innovations to tackle the grand challenges we face as a society, from a new waterproof coating to cut down single use plastic, to helping us train mechanics with simulators.

“This is our modern Industrial Strategy in action, backing the innovators and businesses of all sizes across the UK to grow – and develop the products, industries and sectors of tomorrow, boosting the UK economy with the skills and inventions we will need for the next generation.”

Innovate UK Executive Chair, Dr Ian Campbell said: “Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation Awards address a key barrier for diversity in innovation – the lack of female role models. By recognising their achievement with purple plaques, we are making sure that our nine newly crowned winners inspire the next generation of female innovators.

“Whether it’s inspiring young students showing a passion for STEM, someone with the spark of an idea, or an innovative business ready to be taken to the next level, the Women in Innovation 2019 campaign aims to drive long term, far reaching positive change”.

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

Previous winners have gone on to become ambassadors for Prince’s Trust and develop breakthrough innovations. These include Carmen Hijosa, who has created a sustainable alternative to leather using pineapple leaf fibre; Elena Dieckmann, whose company produces novel products – such as thermal packaging – using surplus feathers from the poultry industry; and Fanzi Down, who has developed a revolutionary chocolate moulding technique by industralising the process of displacement.

UKRI is celebrating International Women’s Day across the organisation, find out more on our International Women’s Day page.

Full list of winners and their pioneering achievements:

•   Agnes Czako – Airbrick that uses artificial intelligence to monitor and respond to the environment, weather and occupant behaviour, improving a household’s energy efficiency;
•   Alex Haslehurst – Tool to help clinicians assess patient health, particularly motor function, more efficiently;
•   Cintia Kimura – Remote practical training system for car mechanics;
•   Daniela Paredes Fuentes – Software using virtual reality to allow designers to sketch in 3D;
•   Dr Debbie Wake – Digital platform that uses patient information and home-recorded data to provide diabetes patients with personalised advice;
•   Dolores Sanders – Using big data-sharing to streamline small businesses’ manufacturing processes;
•   Dr Fanya Ismail – Using a ‘sol-gel’ chemical process to create plastic-free coffee cup coating;
•   Jessica Bruce – 3D gait analysis to help older adults and those recovering from surgery to walk pain-free; and
•   Sheana Yu – Wheelchair seating system which uses air cells to ensure the user remains comfortable and supported.

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