Five new women-led startups tackle global challenges

Oct 16, 2020

From microplastic alternatives to portable water filters, Imperial women are at the forefront of developing game-changing businesses.
microplastics found on beach
By Joanna Wilson

Five new startups founded by women students will battle it out in the final stage of the College’s WE Innovate Programme.

The WE¬†Innovate programme, run by Imperial‚Äôs¬†Enterprise Lab,¬†is¬†the College’s flagship entrepreneurship education programme designed to support the next generation of women entrepreneurs¬†and help them¬†accelerate their¬†startups.¬†The nine-month programme supports students identifying as women¬†to develop¬†an early stage business idea¬†and¬†advance their leadership and entrepreneurial skills.

WE Innovate includes business coaching, masterclasses and networking, offered remotely for the first time this year, with the overall aim of increasing the number of women in leadership positions, running startups and raising funding. At the final the five finalists will pitch in front of a virtual audience for a chance to win a share of a £30,000 prize fund, sponsored by bp.

Microplastic alternative

The Green Beads team

Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic smaller than 5mm that pass through water filtration systems, entering the ocean and contaminating the ecosystem, posing health risks to humans and wildlife. A major source of microplastics is the cosmetics industry, with microbeads being used in exfoliants and scrubs. Green Beads aim to provide an alternative to microplastics through biodegradable, non-toxic algae, which they would harvest and shape into beads.

The team, led by Chemical Engineering PhD student Lu Ai, say that their beads could be added into paints for sustainable painting, or to extend the shelf life of cosmetic products by incorporating antimicrobial agents into the beads.

Predicting pressure ulcers

CalidiScope, led by medical student Luthfun Nessa, have developed a mattress topper to detect and prevent pressure ulcers. The mattress topper, embedded with sensors uses machine learning to help nurses to monitor patient movements, automate documentation and predict the onset of a pressure ulcer before it develops.

The CalidiScope team

By alerting nurses when a patient needs moving, CalidiScope say their mattress topper could save patients from unnecessary pain, save nurses time and prevent pressure ulcers developing. Going forward, the team say their device also has the potential to predict the onset of a variety of conditions, in addition to pressure ulcers.

Ahrabbey Sivananthan

Space rocket asthma inhaler

Inspire Kids, led by medical student Ahrabbey Sivananthan, are developing SpiroLyte, a pocket-sized collapsible spacer for inhalers used by children with asthma. Asthma spacers are tube-like devices that attach to inhalers, slowing down airflow to optimise drug delivery to the lungs.

Inspire Kids’ spacer remains attached directly to the inhaler and can be ejected at the click of a button, eliminating a multi-step process. Their spacer, designed like a space rocket, will be linked to an app, Planet Aeroza, to encourage children to improve asthma knowledge through a superhero game and interactive videos.

Portable water filter

The aqUasieVe teamAqUasieVe is a portable water filter designed for sustainable travelling. To avoid drinking contaminated tap water while on holiday, many travellers choose bottled water. However the team say this still poses problems, with many bottled water companies simply selling treated tap water, while plastic bottles contribute to waste and are a source of microplastics pollution.

AqUasieVe’s 5cm filter combines two technologies for water purification: hollow fibre ultrafiltration to mechanically separate water from microplastics, and UV light to break up the DNA of odour-causing and harmful bacteria. Users can attach the filter to a tap wherever they are to access bacteria-free water. The team is made up of Chemistry students Giulia Casarano and Virginia Chiarentin.

Better balance

WuQing Hipsh

The vestibular system, part of the inner ear, is the sensory system that provides the leading contribution to sense of balance and spatial orientation. WeAlign hope to increase accessibility and adherence to rehabilitation for people with balance disorders with an online platform to help them regain confidence, improve mobility and reduce the risk of falls.

WeAlign say their at-home therapy, where patients play online interactive games, empowers users to play and track their progress, and receive feedback. WeAlign was founded by Innovation Design Engineering student WuQing Hipsh.

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