Two RCA Alumna Win Women in Innovation Awards

Daniela Paredes Fuentes
Women in Innovation, Daniela Paredes Fuentes, Gravity Sketch, 2019
Photographer: Adam Gasson

Innovate UK has awarded funding and support to nine of the UK’s most innovative female-led businesses, as part of its campaign to boost diversity in innovation. Two of these women are graduates of the RCA, Sheana Yu and Daniela Paredes Fuentes, who have also been supported by InnovationRCA the College’s centre for enterprise, entrepreneurship, incubation and business support.

The awards are part of Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation campaign, which aims to encourage female-led innovation and help women achieve their business ambitions. Sheana and Daniela will receive £50,000 business funding and a package of bespoke support to help grow their business and boost the UK economy.

Winning RCA Innovators Tackle Society’s Biggest Challenges

Sheana Yu
Women in Innovation, Sheana Yu, Aergo, 2019
Photographer: Adam Gasson
Sheana Yu graduated from Global Innovation Design, a joint master’s with Imperial College London (ICL), in 2015. She is the founder and CEO of Aergo, a wheelchair seating system for young wheelchair users. Aergo uses air cells that adjust automatically, to ensure users remain comfortable, supported and independent.

Discussing the announcement of the award Sheana said: ‘It’s such a huge encouragement to be recognised for the work you’ve done. If my story can motivate more women like me, that will be a really exciting part of the journey. This award will be a great platform to grow by learning from other female founders, and be a part of a network of inspirational women.’

Daniela Paredes Fuentes, graduated from Innovation Design Engineering, also a joint Master’s with ICL, in 2014. She is co-founder of Gravity Sketch – a creation tool with mixed reality user experience that allows users to seamlessly export content in a variety of formats. Conventionally, designers create multiple 2D sketches to be translated into a single 3D image using specialist software such as CAD. Gravity Sketch allows designers to intuitively sketch objects in an immersive 3D space. 

Speaking to ICL, Daniela commented: ‘We’ve created a really interesting product. When you see it in the hands of people and it makes them excited and happy, and they tell you it’s game-changing – it’s about that.’

Supporting Women in Innovation

Gravity Sketch
Gravity Sketch
Innovate UK launched Women in Innovation in 2016, after research revealed that just one in seven applications for Innovate UK support came from women. This year’s winners are tackling some of society’s biggest challenges set out in the government’s modern Industrial Strategy, including artificial intelligence (AI) and the future of mobility.

Business Secretary Greg Clark, who announced the winners, said: ‘The winning women are developing pioneering innovations to tackle the grand challenges we face as a society, from a new paper coating to cut down single use plastic, to helping us train mechanics using simulators. This is our modern Industrial Strategy in action, backing businesses of all sizes across the UK to grow and boost the economy with the skills and inventions we need for the next generation.’ 

Discussing the awards, Dr Ian Campbell, Interim Chief Executive of Innovate UK, said: ‘Whether it’s inspiring young students showing a passion for STEM, someone with the spark of an idea or an innovative business ready to be taken to the next level, the Women in Innovation 2019 campaign aims to drive long term and far-reaching change.’

InnovationRCA Success Stories 

The successes of these female entrepreneurs follows on from the announcement of InnovationRCA’s First50 Scale-Up programme. This programme celebrates the achievements of its first 50 spin out companies and connects these start-ups with industry mentors to help them reach greater heights.

Read more about the RCA Women in Innovation we celebrated for International Women’s Day.