UCL News


UCL-supported women entrepreneurs receive Innovate UK awards

20 March 2023

Seven female trailblazers supported by UCL have won national awards in recognition of their game-changing ideas tackling some of the UK’s biggest challenges.

Image shows a woman sitting on a bench, using her laptop with the UCL sign in the background

The Women in Innovation Programme is an annual competition that supports and celebrates remarkable UK women entrepreneurs and senior business leaders. This year, 50 women out of hundreds of applicants have been awarded a £50,000 grant to scale their businesses.

They will also receive individual business coaching plus networking, role modelling and training opportunities.

Five out of the seven entrepreneurs were supported by the Innovate UK EDGE team at UCL.

These five are:

Ola Hekselman, co-founder of Solveteq and a battery scientist. Ola has spent the last ten years in academia working on next generation materials for Li-ion batteries. She turned her passion for the environment to developing Solveteq, which brings a sustainable approach to battery recycling technologies.

Fatemeh Ameri is the CEO and founder of PreciousMD, a medical technology company that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to analyse clinical images to help diagnose cancers and identify patients eligible for targeted therapy.

Bakul Gupta, co-founder of ImmTune Therapies, a biotech startup which can genetically modify cells inside patients to create curative cell therapies for diseases such as cancer.

Melenie Schatynski, who co-founded My Code Kit, supporting students learning to code. The first application in the kit, Ocobox, uses AI and machine learning to help young people to explore coding, make mistakes in a safe environment and provide constructive feedback to improve their confidence and resilience.

Katerina Spranger founded UCL startup Oxford Heartbeat, which provides clinicians with cutting-edge AI technology and medical devices to improve surgical outcomes. Katerina was previously a member of the Hatchery Incubator programme at BaseKX, UCL’s dedicated entrepreneurship space in the heart of the Kings Cross Knowledge Quarter, where she received tailored supported and dedicated office space.

Katerina said: “We’ve been part of various accelerator programmes, but with UCL it’s more like you have a base. You have a home and links to the university and wider UCL community including the hospitals, which is fantastic.”

Two of the seven winners were either studying at UCL or attended BaseKX programmes.

BoobyBiome was founded by Dr Lydia Mapstone (UCL Biosciences), which aims to replicate the bacteria found in breast milk in a supplement for formula-fed babies to help them to regulate their digestive, immune and metabolic functions.

Ambessa Play was founded by Sara Berkai, who attended UCL’s extracurricular entrepreneurship programmes at BaseKX, where she also received business advice. Ambessa play is a social enterprise that designs toy kits and workshops for children, helping to develop an interest in STEM subjects from a young age.

Professor Geraint Rees, UCL Vice-Provost (Research, Innovation & Global Engagement) said: “I’d like to congratulate the remarkable women entrepreneurs receiving these transformational awards from Innovate UK.

“The variety of challenges they are tackling with their businesses, from cancer to coding and encouraging an early interest in STEM subjects is truly inspiring, and I’m delighted to see how the support UCL provides to startups and businesses enables them to think outside the box and challenge conventional thinking.”

Indro Mukerjee, CEO of Innovate UK, said: “The Innovate UK Women in Innovation programme is an important part of our many activities to make a real difference to the talent and skills pipeline for UK business innovation by inspiring, involving and investing in greater diversity.

“I warmly congratulate all the Women in Innovation Award winners and look forward to keeping in touch as they progress.”

Michelle Donelan, Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology said: “Backing the UK’s brilliant female scientists, innovator sand entrepreneurs is just common sense. The wider a talent pool we can bring to bear on some of the biggest challenges facing the world today, the more solutions we will find, as proved by the inspiring innovations outlined today, from bionic arms for amputees to game-changing antibiotics.

“My congratulations to all 50 of this year’s winners. Pioneering ideas like theirs will open the door to everything from greater productivity to better healthcare, ultimately creating jobs and economic growth.”

Women in Innovation is run by Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). Through the Innovate UK EDGE team, UCL assists high-growth businesses including innovative startups and research and development (R&D) intensive spinouts wanting to scale up and grow internationally. The team provides specialist support for innovation and growth support; helping companies to exploit innovation, to source funding and to enter new markets.



  • UCL. Credit: Mat Wright 


Media contact

Kate Corry

Tel: +44 (0)20 3108 6995

Email: k.corry [at] ucl.ac.uk