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UCL helps GiveVision transform the lives of visually impaired people

GiveVision uses augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to improve the vision of people with severe sight loss. The startup has received free business support from UCL Innovation & Enterprise.

Person sitting on a sofa opposite a TV wearing a headset

3 March 2021

The medtech company aims to revolutionise the lives of millions of blind and visually impaired people. Experts from the Global Innovation team, part of UCL Innovation & Enterprise, have supported GiveVision since 2018.

GiveVision's mission

Founded in 2014, the startup has created a wearable device that uses AR and VR to enhance vision. The device, called SightPlus, enables wearers to go about their daily activities with greater independence.

As one in nine people over the age of 65 will be diagnosed with macular degeneration, GiveVision’s innovations promise major benefits for society. Current R&D projects include developing more compact glasses and an eye monitoring programme.

‘Part of the company’ 

The business relationship began when the Global Innovation team selected GiveVision to attend VivaTech in 2018, Europe's biggest startup and tech event in Paris. It was here that GiveVision formed collaborations and accessed the French market. Helped by UCL Innovation & Enterprise, GiveVision has since opened a subsidiary in France. 

Jonathan Grinbaud, an Innovation Adviser in the Global Innovation team, has assisted the business throughout its entrepreneurial journey. He identified and helped with applications for R&D grants. One recent application resulted in GiveVision securing nearly £350,000 in funding from Eureka for a collaborative R&D project with a French SME. Jonathan has also made introductions to investors and recommended relevant training and workshops. 

Elodie Draperi, Co-founder and CEO of GiveVision, said: "It's almost like Jonathan is part of our company which is great when you are small with limited resources.

"UCL Innovation & Enterprise has actively supported our entrepreneurial journey, making sure we connect with relevant partners and identify opportunities to raise funding. We're very thankful for Jonathan's involvement over the past two years. His hands-on approach has pushed us forward."
 
Jonathan Grinbaud said: "Working with talented and passionate entrepreneurs such as Elodie and Stan from GiveVision not only gives me a personal drive as an Innovation Adviser, it also fits our objectives perfectly. Besides being game-changing, GiveVision's technology also has a direct impact on the lives of people with vision impairment. This echoes the UCL 2034 strategy around addressing global challenges as well as the UK Industrial Strategy's priorities on harnessing the power of innovation to help meet the needs of an ageing society."

The Global Innovation team advises around 150 London-based SMEs a year. The team is part of Innovate UK EDGE, which provides support for R&D intensive businesses looking to expand and scale overseas. Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) is a key partner, and with a presence in 65 countries, it offers SMEs opportunities for international growth.

A dedicated entrepreneurial community 

Thanks to an introduction from the Global Innovation team, GiveVision joined the East London Inclusive Enterprise Zone (ELIEZ). ELIEZ is a programme for entrepreneurs who are disabled or whose work focuses on disabled people. It's based at Here East, a tech campus in east London's Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

UCL is the lead partner of ELIEZ that also brings together Plexal, Here East, Global Disability Innovation Hub (GDI Hub) and Disability Rights UK. The office space is designed to be fully accessible. Business training is available, and there are clear advantages of working alongside companies with a common mission.

Elodie enthused about ELIEZ: "We've been on acceleration programmes before, but they were more general. GiveVision is at the point now where we need expertise in disabilities, and we can build a network of these people at ELIEZ. The businesses are at different stages, so we share our experience to help others avoid pitfalls. We also share our contacts. We've donated headsets to another company at ELIEZ who work with the disabled workforce, and I'm sure they can help us in the future." 

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