From education to employment

Academy awards follow-on funding to 15 leading innovators working to boost social inclusion

The Royal Academy of Engineering has selected 15 entrepreneurs from seven different countries to join its Leaders in Innovation Fellowships Advance (LIF Advance) programme to help equip them to grow their businesses and achieve their full commercial potential.

From novel delivery and disposal of biodegradable menstrual products to the use of a high-altitude platform and space technology to improve internet connectivity in remote areas, the 15 individuals have developed a wide range of innovations that are helping to improve social inclusion across education, employment, agriculture, and healthcare.

Since launching in 2015, the LIF programme has supported more than 1,000 entrepreneurs from low-and middle-income countries (LMICs) who have an engineering-based innovation with the potential to boost social welfare and economic development in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. The programme offers mentoring and networking opportunities and tailored guidance on commercialisation to help participants scale-up their products and services for the benefit of their communities and beyond.

LIF Advance takes things a step further for an exclusive cohort of the best LIF alumni, giving them an enhanced programme of training in relationship building and business growth, both internationally and in the UK. Through the programme they can achieve their full commercial potential and leave equipped to grow their business at home and internationally with closer links to and understanding of doing business in the UK. Entrepreneurs on the programme also mentor others within the LIF community.

This month the selected entrepreneurs begin a nine-month programme to hone their entrepreneurial skills, better understand the UK market for digital technology, make connections and prepare for growth. The programme, delivered by the university-led enterprise partnership SETsquared on behalf of the Academy, also includes a one-week residential course in the UK and ongoing mentoring.

Lisa Rose, Senior Manager Entrepreneurship for Development at the Royal Academy of Engineering, said: “LIF is an incredible programme supporting talented innovators to commercialise a product for the benefit of their communities. Selection for LIF is tough; selection for LIF Advance is tougher. It’s great to see such a diverse and dynamic mix of innovators creating solutions for the future. I’m delighted to welcome these talented engineers to the Academy’s LIF Advance programme where they will gain the support they need to scale up. They’ve all shown that they’re passionate about overcoming social inclusion challenges within their countries and we are proud to be able to support them on their journey to commercialising their innovative start-ups.”

The first LIF Advance programme in 2020/21 brought together 13 entrepreneurs from four continents. Their shared goal was to launch innovations to reduce inequalities in healthcare and for disability inclusion. The technologies they had designed and were commercialising products and services ranged from affordable surgical robots and using nanoparticles to diagnose Hepatitis C to portable diagnostic bio sensors and urine collecting devices for people with disabilities.

The successful roll out of these products could help to improve the lives of more than 600 million individuals who live in some of the poorest and most vulnerable communities around the world. It has been estimated that these 13 entrepreneurs have the potential to generate £180m turnover and employ over 160 people over the next decade.

Karen Brooks, Programme Director at the Academy’s delivery partner SETsquared, said: “The participants from the first LIF Advance cohort are working on technologies that will change the way people access healthcare around the globe. We worked closely with them all to provide a bespoke schedule of support in line with their stage of commercialisation and technology development, and each and every one of them gave 100% commitment. To see them make progress and connections, and ultimately take the next step in their business development journey is why we do what we do. We now look forward to meeting the 2022 cohort and ensuring they achieve similar success.”

The 2021/22 LIF Advance participants and their innovations:

  • AGROS, Robinson Lopez from Peru – A voice-based digital identity and wallet for non-digital farmers to help them gain credibility and make transactions.
  • Genesis Care, Catherine Wanjoya from Kenya – Sanitary pads and incinerators with a digital payment system and app.
  • Helion, Hagorly Mohamad Hutasuhut from Indonesia – The application of high-altitude platform and space technology to provide internet connectivity.
  • Kiddo, Analia Tanuwidjaja from Indonesia – A technology to help parents identify their kids’ strengths and use this data to provide tailored activity recommendations.
  • Lepsta, Excellent Sithembiso Khumalo from South Africa – A collaboration platform for software development teams that helps them increase productivity and efficiency by progressively automating parts of their workflow.
  • Majik Water Technologies, Beth Koigi from Kenya – Atmospheric water generators.
  • Microdigo and DigoLab, Diogo Cunha from Brazil – A web platform using AI, robotics, IoT gadgets, interactive online classes and machine learning to teach science and maths to kids.
  • PBot, Himmat Singh from India – An autonomous, robotic, waterless, cleaning and inspection system.
  • Pixed Corp, Ricardo Rodríguez Torres from Peru – Using 3D printing to create prosthesis for upper limbs.
  • Plusfarm Agribusiness Management System (PAMS), Stephen Moses from Kenya – A knowledge-based management software that helps farmers in data-driven decision-making for improving productivity and profitability.
  • Thermy, Luis Enrique Hernandez from Mexico – A medical device and an integrated software solution to screen and to help with the early detection of breast cancer.
  • Trestle Labs, Bonny Mukesh Dave from India – Kibo – An end-to-end solution for listening to, translating and digitising printed, handwritten and digital content across more than 60 languages.
  • VBraille, Jennifer Rodriguez from Colombia – A Braille keyboard, platform and academy for teachers.
  • Vyorius Drones Pvt, Nishant Singh Rana from India – An AI-enabled universal plug-and-play digital architecture for unmanned mobile robotic operations.
  • WitBlox, Amit Modi from India – A gamified robotics learning app using comic stories and cartoons to encourage children to engage in STEM subjects.

LIF Advance is part of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s suite of international programmes, which provide tailored funding, training and support to LMIC’s researchers and entrepreneurs, these programmes welcome support from new funders and partners.

Notes to Editors

  1. More about the first cohort of LIF Advance participants and their impact can be found in Exploring the impact of the Leaders in Innovation Fellowships Advance Programme
  1. The Royal Academy of Engineering is harnessing the power of engineering to build a sustainable society and an inclusive economy that works for everyone. In collaboration with our Fellows and partners, were growing talent and developing skills for the future, driving innovation and building global partnerships, and influencing policy and engaging the public. Together we are working to tackle the greatest challenges of our age.
  1. SETsquared is a unique enterprise partnership and a dynamic collaboration between the six-leading research-led UK universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey. Ranked as the Global No. 1 Business Incubator, SETsquared provides a wide range of highly acclaimed support programmes to help turn ideas into thriving businesses. For more information about SETsquared visit:

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