Innovation & Enterprise


Celebrating disability-led innovation

18 March 2021

A virtual event took place today to showcase some of the innovations that have come out of East London Inclusive Enterprise Zone (ELIEZ). Former Paralympic athlete Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson was the keynote speaker at the event.

Aerial shot of Here East, where Plexal is based

Launched in 2020, ELIEZ provides an accessible, specially designed programme for entrepreneurs, business leaders and design thinkers who are disabled or whose work focuses on accessibility.

Entrepreneurs supported by ELIEZ got to pitch their early-stage business to a panel of funders and industry experts for growth and investment advice.

A hotbed for collaboration

ELIEZ was co-created by UCL and partners, to provide more focused business support for entrepreneurs who are disabled or whose work focuses on accessibility. Members have participated in a dedicated accessible accelerator programme, mostly taking place during lockdown. 

Alongside unlimited support from the network, the cohort has benefitted from mentoring, and workshops on everything from funding to social media. They’ve also had access to full membership at Plexal, an innovation centre based at the Here East campus on the Queen Elizabeth Park.

Martin Davies, Director for Innovation Partnerships, UCL Innovation & Enterprise, said: “It’s been a huge privilege for UCL to be involved in this remarkable inclusive innovation zone in East London. It’s led to many more opportunities being opened up for disabled entrepreneurs and ventures with a focus on accessibility. Thank you and congratulations to the ELIEZ cohort and all the partners, who’ve shown us what’s possible when inclusive businesses work together.”

Bringing inclusive innovators together

ELIEZ is one of 20 University Enterprise Zones part-funded by the UK Government since 2014. It has seen a new generation of diverse entrepreneurs coming together to support one another and grow their ventures. 

Many of the startups have launched innovative new products and services for the disabled community. Other new ventures, run by people with disabilities, have sprung to life or been supported to scale.

The first cohort included Lapapo, an online marketplace focused on products and services for children with neurodiverse conditions. Another business The Ability People, a consultancy on a mission to close the disability employment gap, has been co-founded by gold medal-winning Paralympian Liz Johnson.

GiveVision, who have also taken part, are using augmented technology (AR) and virtual technology (VR) to improve the vision of people with severe sight loss. They’ve created a wearable device that uses AR and VR to allow wearers to go about their daily activities with greater independence.

GiveVision Founder Elodie Draperi said: “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." 

Working together on innovation 

The ELIEZ initiative has been co-developed by 13 academic, private and community partners, including:

  • UCL
  • Greater London Authority
  • Here East
  • Plexal
  • Global Disability Innovation Hub
  • London Legacy Development Corporation
  • Disability Rights UK
  • London College of Fashion 
  • Loughborough University London
  • Hackney Council
  • Capital Enterprise
  • Ford Mobility
  • Inclusion London

Lyn Garner, Chief Executive at London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), said: “LLDC is pleased to be a principal partner in the ELIEZ project. ELIEZ is a great example of the sort of programmes that result in public, private academic and community partners coming together to work on innovation challenges. This partnership model and initiatives like ELIEZ form a key part of the inclusive innovation district that is rapidly developing at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.”

Watch a video about ELIEZ

Learn more about ELIEZ, and the entrepreneurs who have been part of the programme, in this video:

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SqNWKOGvS5Q 


Find out more about:

The project was delivered by the Business Innovation Partnership team (BIP), part of UCL Innovation & Enterprise, in close collaboration with the consortium partners.

Photo © Plexal