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RCA Innovation Design Engineering Graduate Wins Inaugural Mayor’s Innovation Award

The top award for London’s most Innovative International Student went to RCA / Imperial graduate Luca Alessandrini, for his violin made from spider silk. Luca discovered the award-winning innovative material while studying for a Double Master’s degree in Innovation Design Engineering (IDE), a joint course between the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London. 

When the violin is played, the spider silk vibrates the instrument’s casing, emitting a sound which can be customised by tweaking the exact blend of the material.  The combination of silk and resin produces a unique tone which can be altered by blending different quantities of the raw materials. The new material could allow the acoustics of instruments and sound equipment to be customised with a degree of control that is difficult to obtain with other modern materials such as carbon fibre. 

The prize was announced at a ceremony attended by London’s key innovators and many of its international student population – appropriate as the event celebrated the incredible range of talent among the city’s international students.

Alongside Luca, six of the finalists were also from the Royal College of Art. Together with a further eight international graduates drawn from London’s prestigious universities, they showcased the very best in life-changing, high-tech and creative innovations, exhibited at Central St Martins, Granary Square. 

The other RCA finalists included Olivia Hildebrand, from the Netherlands, for her project Tact, a London bus stop designed to assist blind and partially sighted people using bus services that she developed studying IDE at the RCA and Imperial. Felicie Eymard, from France, was nominated for Metamorphosis, a womenswear collection that can morph into different pieces of clothing which she created while studying Design Products at the RCA. Pae Natwilai, from Thailand, studied Global Innovation Design at the RCA and Imperial and developed an app that allows a user to control drones as if waving a magic wand. 

Three finalists are currently developing their projects through InnovationRCA, the College’s centre for enterprise, entrepreneurship, incubation and business support. Developed while studying IDE at the RCA and Imperial, Elena Dieckermann from Germany was nominated for Areopowder, a water-repellent paint made from chicken feathers, a waste product of the poultry industry. Malav Sanghavi, from India, also studied IDE at the RCA and Imperial which is where he created patent-pending Creoto, a smart amputee socket which can be adjusted for the user via an app in real time to suit the individual's needs. Xinyang Tan, from China, is also part of InnovationRCA and studied IDE. He was nominated for his project Vigor, a device which strengthens the limbs of children with muscular problems such as Muscular Dystrophy (MD) and low-level Cerebal Palsy (CP).  

Hosted by the Mayor of London and London & Partners, Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, commented that: 'the incredible range of talent on show in these awards celebrates the best of the capital and clearly demonstrates that London is open to talent and ideas from across the globe. We need to do all we can to ensure that London remains the best and most welcoming destination for international students.' 

The International Student Innovation Awards was established in order to highlight the outstanding work of the city’s international students. It also provides financial help to assist students in taking their innovation to the next stage of development. It was devised by London & Partners, the Mayor’s official promotional company and is also supported by the UK Government’s Education is GREAT campaign and the British CouncilCambridge EnglishIDP Education and The PIE.