Innovate UK invest a quarter of a million in seven female entrepreneurs from Northern Ireland

Along with the grant funding to invest in their business, each NI entrepreneur will receive tailored business support to help them grow, stimulating Northern Ireland and the wider UK’s economy

Seven female entrepreneurs from Northern Ireland have scooped a national award from Innovate UK, the UK’s Innovation Agency.

The prestigious award will support them to grow their innovative business ideas. Along with the grant funding to invest in their business, each entrepreneur will also receive 12 months of tailored business support to help them grow, stimulating Northern Ireland and the wider UK’s economy.

In line with the UK’s growing appetite for innovation, this new award programme was amongst the most highly engaged funding competitions Innovate UK has ever delivered - with over 2,100 entrepreneurs applying for funding and business mentorship.

The Northern Ireland winners were Katie Love from Holywood, Glengormley’s Claire Brannigan, Katrina Bradley from Londonderry, Sion Mills-based Judith O’Doherty, Carrickfergus lady Gemma McAllister, Belfast’s Sarah McKegney and Taylor Yates in Bushmills.

Katie Love has created a unique beauty tool which helps users achieve pro-level eyeliner quickly.

Katie explained: “This innovate UK grant has come at a really pivotal time for my business, facilitating a collaboration with Blond, (the No1 product design studio in Europe) who have designed products such as Fussy Reusable Deodorant and the Revolut Banking Brand. I know Blond who are experts in consumer product design, will dramatically impact the quality of my product as I prepare to bring it to market.”

Katie is aiming to raise funds with investors before launching the product at the end of the year.

Claire Brannigan's business Skinakin has designed a unique range of eczema relief suits for children, that help improve sleep quality, reduce itch, and prevent damage from scratching.

Claire continued: “As parents of children with eczema, we understand the impact this condition has on the child and the family. We want to help parents like ourselves, by developing innovative products that will help them and their children. This support is essential to us as we continue on our product development journey, helping us achieve our mission 'make life better for children with eczema.”

Katrina Bradley, founder of Numerasee, is developing an all-in-one solution to unlocking every child's math potential through a dynamic blend of proven past, present and future teaching approaches, and where home holds the key to success.

Katrina outlined: “The project has the potential for long-term impact by fostering a holistic learning approach, acknowledging that education extends beyond the classroom. It fosters community, pushes boundaries using modern AI technology, promotes inclusivity and empowers parents and caregivers to enhance their own teaching skills and confidence.”

Judith O’Doherty is the founder of eutopia - a place analytics and place marketing specialist. Judith has secured funding to further develop her unique “Vista” product which benchmarks locations across the UK as places in which to invest, live, study and visit.

“Places of all sizes are striving to be the best they can be but there are many opportunities, challenges and trade offs for Local Authorities to make. Vista provides a measurable and objective perspective on place performance and better informs the strategic place development approach,” she stated.

Gemma McAllister, founder of WearMatter is blending sustainability and adaptive clothing to create a collection of outfits that are both functional and fashionable for people with disabilities. The timing of the Innovate UK award has came at an opportune time having received Bank of Ireland's Inclusive Innovation Award in Q4 of 2023. Gemma’s vision is to create impact for the 20% of the population who are often overlooked in society and disrupt the fashion industry.

Sarah McKegney, founder of Percy & Pop has created a range of plastic-free solid shampoo and conditioner products specially formulated for children.

Sarah highlighted: “As parents of three young children we were concerned by the volume of waste we were generating at bathtime, between plastic bottles and the kids squirting shampoo everywhere! Our solid shampoo bars have been formulated using the most natural, gentle ingredients to create a beautifully bubbly lather suitable for even the most sensitive little heads. And importantly, each zero-waste bar lasts at least as long as two 350ml plastic bottles of liquid shampoo making them a more sustainable and economical choice for families.”

The bars come in a range of vibrant colours and fragrances kids will love.

Taylor Yates, a pioneering fashion brand based in Bushmills, is set to unveil an innovative project that redefines fashion sustainability. Fuelled by a commitment to responsible luxury fashion, the project aims to revolutionise manufacturing waste management by developing a ground breaking process that upcycles non-fashion industry leather waste into luxurious products.

By harnessing discarded materials, Taylor Yates bridges the gap between waste management and the luxury market, offering a distinct and ethically crafted alternative for conscious consumers.

"We're on a mission to challenge the norms and reshape the fashion industry" says Ellen Yates, founder of Taylor Yates. "Our project encapsulates our ethos of responsible luxury, marrying style with environmental responsibility. This grant from Innovate UK comes at the right moment for our brand as we chart a path forward to more responsible manufacturing processes in the future."

There is an urgent need to transform the UK’s skills and talent pipeline, through inspiring and connecting people to new opportunities and pathways into innovation. Innovate UK estimates that, to achieve the UK’s full economic potential, 400,000 more innovators need to be supported, from entrepreneurs to engineers.

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