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WE Innovate is Imperial’s flagship female entrepreneurship education programme designed to support the next generation of women entrepreneurs to accelerate their startups. The six-month programme supports female students, developing an early stage business idea, to advance their leadership and entrepreneurial skills. One of our key goals of this competition is to increase the number of female engineers setting up their own ventures and the WE Innovate team works closely with the Faculty of Engineering to promote the programme directly to engineers.
Joint Winner: Sophie Paisley-Marshall, PhD Student Sustainable Civil Engineering, Orbit Materials - £1,500 Engineers in Business Prize

Sophie won her prize for the development of carbon-negative construction materials from waste residues. Orbit Materials promotes a circular economy through the development of a treatment which successfully improves the quality of a waste product so that it can be repurposed within construction applications.

Orbit Materials develops carbon-negative secondary raw materials for construction from waste. Implementation of the technology promotes sustainable waste management, captures carbon and reduces the strain on natural resources.

Natural sand is a fast depleting natural resource, which is an essential component within construction. As urbanisation increases, so does the strain on finite natural sand resources. In order to shift towards sustainable infrastructure resource application, it is necessary to find viable natural sand alternatives.

Orbit Materials has developed a natural sand alternative from waste. Incinerator bottom ash (IBA) is a material derived from the thermal treatment of municipal solid waste. IBA processing plants treat and process the IBA in order to retrieve valuable materials, however, due to the complex composition of the IBA fine fraction, effective re-use of this material poses a challenge.

Orbit Materials have developed an innovative treatment process for the IBA fine fraction, making it suitable to be used as a natural sand replacement in construction applications. The novel process not only stabilises the IBA fine fraction, but also captures carbon. The application of Orbit Material’s process solves the issue of IBA fine fraction recycling whilst producing a carbon-negative natural sand alternative.
Joint Winner: Lauren Dowling, Undergraduate Design Engineering, Rock N Roll - £1,500 Engineers in Business Prize

Lauren won her prize for developing a collapsible log-fence to prevent rotational falls in equestrian cross-country competitions. The main project in the first year of Design Engineering focused on ‘improving physical health’. Sports injury prevention seemed to be a field with plenty of opportunity for innovation. Having previously been an avid horse rider, Lauren consider this a good area to begin exploring. Her research highlighted the issue of rotational falls in equestrian eventing.

A rotational fall occurs when a horse hits a rigid fence above the knee and catches its leg. Forward momentum can cause the horse to rotate over the fence and land on the rider.
Having calculated the forces associated with a rotational fall, a frangible pin system designed to fracture upon the exertion of these predetermined forces was developed by the Transport Research Laboratory. Frangible pins are currently used in a limited number of fence styles. While they have proven to be successful in the prevention of rotational falls, the remaining styles of fence still hold the same risk.

Lauren’s innovation, Rock N Roll, is a failure friendly alternative to the solid tree trunk fence. It is log-like in appearance only and once a horse collides with this fence, it collapses. Frangible pins hold the main body upright so that on impact, they are broken, causing the fence to drop towards the ground. The result is a further reduction as the fence rotates downwards. Fortunately for both horse and rider, the fence can now be cleared safely. The fence once rocked rolls downward, hence the name Rock N Roll.

In the initial development of the concept, Lauren liaised with riders at all levels and interviewed course designers and builders. More recently, she has had a one-to-one discussion with the National Safety Officer who has expressed interest in her design. Lauren will be keeping him updated on its progress.

Lauren envisions the next phase being validation of the structure itself. She has agreed to join a group of PhD students who comprise HeadLab, to work on the development of protective headgear used in sports. From this placement, Lauren aims to gain the experience necessary to test and validate the design for Rock N Roll using advanced simulations and potentially conduct physical tests of a prototype. By the end of the placement, Lauren hopes to pitch Rock N Roll to British Eventing.

Positive Feedback

We are delighted to connect students to this fantastic opportunity! The EIB prize gave two female entrepreneurs vital funding to unlock the next stage of development for their idea. We also see a huge opportunity for Sophie and Lauren to join the EIB network, making connections to help further their current and future projects.

The award publicly recognises their leadership and entrepreneurial skills. It helps us to celebrate the talent and achievements of pioneering female engineers at Imperial. Both prize recipients showed creativity, expertise and determination when creating and advancing their idea. We are pleased to have the opportunity to reward their achievements and can use their stories to help inspire the next wave of female engineers to start businesses. Many thanks for the EIB team for supporting WE Innovate and the engineers taking part!

Olivia Standish, WE Innovate Programme Lead, Imperial Enterprise Lab.