Celebrating disability-led innovation

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.

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 Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

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."

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2020 QS World University Rankings and top in the country for its student experience in the 2018 THE Student Experience Survey.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 4th in the Guardian University League Table 2020, 5th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020 and 8th in The UK Complete University Guide 2020.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

Specialising exclusively in postgraduate-level study, Loughborough University London is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers cutting-edge master’s and PhD degrees, as well as business collaboration, research and enterprise opportunities.

The seven specialist institutes at Loughborough University London include: Design Innovation, Digital Technologies, Diplomacy and International Governance, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, International Management, Media and Creative Industries, and Sport Business. Close industry partnerships with a wealth of leading businesses and creative organisations means teaching and learning is informed by real-life challenges and driven by true industry pressures.