The Althea-Imperial Prize is designed to encourage a new generation of women innovators and entrepreneurs.

Winner of the 2016 Althea Prize

Hara

Gabi Santosa, an unergraduate student of Biochemistry, developed CustoMem; novel membranes that selectively capture and recycle micro-polluntants, including heavy metals. With their patent-pending, low-energy, low-cost scalable technology rooted in biological manufacturing, industries can adhere to increasing government wastewater standards. First, they are targeting the world’s second most polluting industry - the textile industry. CustoMem's solution, however, can address hazardous wastewater from various industries (mining, pharmaceuticals, and chemicals).

Since winning her prize Gabi has graduated and working with her fellow CustoMem team to commercialise the product.

Runner up

Florence GschwendFlorence Gschwend is currently completing her PhD researching how to extract sustainable forms of energy from existing products. Her research interests inspired her to co-found Chrysalis Technologies, a start-up working on conversion of waste wood feedstocks to value added products such as biofuels, biomaterials and platform chemicals.

Since winning her prize Florence and her team were finlaists in Mass Challenge 2016. Most recently Florence was recognised as one of Forbes 30 under 30 in Europe’s Science & Healthcare category.

Winner of the 2015 Althea Prize

Hara

Charikleia Spathi, a PhD student of Civil & Environmental Engineering, developed a product which draws on the use of a waste material to develop a superhydrophobic powder. It is designed as a
cost-effective waterproof solution for concrete buildings and critical infrastructure. 

Since winning her prize Hara has gone on to file an international patent. This allows for more flexibility when engaging with potential customers. Her next focus is polishing the technical aspects of the product and exploring new ways of developing coatings based on the waste-derived super-hydrophobic powder. This was considered to be critical after taking into account feedback from potential end-users.

Further steps will include establishing collaborations with identified manufacturers of currently available waterproof concrete additives in the UK.

Runners up

Kerry O’Donnelly and Angela de Manzanos

Kerry O’Donnelly and Angela de Manzanos, two PhD students from the Chemical Biology Centre for Doctoral Training, developed FungiAlert, a low-cost, easy to use device that allows farmers to detect the presence of fungal spores before they infect crops. Phytophthora, a soil-borne plant pathogen, is responsible for loses of $5-7 billion per crop per year.

Since winning their prize the team have secured lab space for further prototyping; have registered the company; and have carried out further market research to validate their technology in other potential markets. Shortly, when their PhDs are completed, they will both be working full time on FungiAlert, and are actively applying and looking for further funding to support the development of this technology.

Clementine Chamboubon Clementine Chambon, a PhD student in Chemical Engineering, is developing an affordable solution to transform agricultural waste into clean energy for off-grid households and to increase crop yields for small-holding farmers in rural India. She is working with an Indian social entrepreneur to build and deploy decentralised waste-to-energy plants that sequester carbon through a micro franchise model.

Since winning her prize Clementine has gone on to undertake a field survey in rural Uttar Pradesh, India, to meet key stakeholders and undertake energy demand analysis. She and her co-founder have been awarded a prestigious Climate Fellowship from Echoing Green, an organisation that invests in early-stage social entrepreneurs, providing seed funding, mentoring and leadership opportunities to assist Clementine towards her ambition of building a mini power plant in rural India.