Imperial College London

Imperial’s trailblazing women entrepreneurs take their ideas to the next level


Last year's WE Innovate finalists

2018 WE Innovate finalists

From eco-friendly fertilisers to virtual reality memory aides, Imperial’s latest search for the College’s top enterprising women is well underway.

Since its launch, WE Innovate has supported hundreds of women to get their ideas off the ground, launch pioneering businesses, and find solutions to critical global challenges. Ben Mumby-Croft Director of Imperial Enterprise Lab

 Imperial’s pioneering WE Innovate Programme, formerly known as the Althea-Imperial Programme, is designed to inspire a new generation of women entrepreneurs and accelerate female-led startups. 

This year, ideas include a low cost remoldable bioplastic cast, carbon-negative secondary raw construction materials from waste and a device that could treat urinary tract infections with ultraviolet irradiation, reducing reliance on antibiotics. 

WE Innovate is a six month programme which provides tailored workshops, inspiring talks by business leaders, pitch training and business coaching to help enterprising female students get their ideas off the ground and turn them into viable businesses. 

Gabi Santosa
Gabi Santosa, winner of WE Innovate in 2016

Previous participants have gone on to see great success with their businesses. Christina Friis Blach Petersen, a 2016 finalist, developed a light-tracking device called LYS to help office workers and city-dwellers understand the importance of light on their health and wellbeing. LYS is now on sale in 11 countries, after Christina raised more than £55,000 in a crowdfunding campaign. 

Gabi Santosa, winner of the programme in 2016, co-founded CustoMem with fellow Imperial student Henrik Hagemann. The company has developed a unique chemical process which can capture and hazardous micropollutants found in industrial wastewater. The team are now based at the College’s White City Incubator, and earlier this year they received a €1.4m grant from the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme to bring their innovative water filtration system to market. 

Supporting women-led businesses

Over the next six weeks, 20 female-led teams will be honing their business ideas before five final teams pitch in front of a live audience for a chance to win a share of a £30,000 prize fund. 

The prize fund, sponsored by BP International, will be awarded by a panel of world class entrepreneurial, academic and industry experts at the annual WE Innovate Final on 7 March. 

This year the Final showcase will be held during Enterprise Month alongside Imperial Lates: Wonder Women, a free public event celebrating Imperial’s women. A packed programme of bite sized talks, creative workshops and performances will showcase the amazing research, innovation and artistic talents of Imperial’s community whilst exploring what it means to be a women the modern world. 

Anna-Marie Greenaway, BP’s Global Director for International University Partnerships, said: “We are delighted to be working with Imperial and the WE Innovate teams. As the world’s population continues to grow, innovation will bring new opportunities to billions of people. 

“We see possibilities everywhere to help the world transition to a lower carbon future; university partnerships and venturing continue to support our ambition of advancing the energy transition. This programme is, therefore, a natural fit on both fronts; in supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs through sharing our venturing know-how and in highlighting the power of building strong partnerships through greater diversity and inclusion.” 

Ben Mumby-Croft, Director of Imperial Enterprise Lab, said: “The WE Innovate programme has had a profound impact on Imperial’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Since its launch, it has supported hundreds of women to get their ideas off the ground, launch pioneering businesses, and find solutions to critical global challenges. We are very proud of their achievements, and I look forward to seeing this year’s cohort develop over the coming weeks”



Deborah Evanson

Deborah Evanson
Communications and Public Affairs

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Entrepreneurship, Strategy-student-experience, Student-entrepreneurship
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