Cranfield University PhD student Siobhan Gardiner has won a Women in Innovation grant, worth £50,000, allowing her robotics startup to transition from a part-time project into a business with full-time R&D capabilities. Thirty-four female entrepreneurs were shortlisted for the Innovate UK’s infocus awards that seek to support inspiring women in innovation today and tomorrow.

Gardiner, who is CEO of HEROTECH8 Ltd., impressed Innovate UK’s panel with her ambition to take on the sustainable infrastructure challenge for fully autonomous drones. Innovate noted that supporting a first-mover start-up would be a strong UK strategic move with potentially large ROI, and her application gave great confidence in the skills of Gardiner to successfully lead this project.

“This competition is the first of its kind from Innovate UK,” explains Gardiner. “The full scope and support package of the award could not have come at a better time for my start-up. I am honoured to have been selected alongside 14 other inspirational entrepreneurs."

Following the nomination, Gardiner was also invited to join the UK Innovation Mission to Shanghai, Nanjing and Suzhou in November 2016 with the Foreign Office, KTN and InnovationChina UK. Her business pitch was greatly received, and the HEROTECH8 team are now following up potential international investment and collaboration.

With women in the UK half as likely to start a new business as their male counterparts, or indeed seek out external sources of funding, Innovate UK’s 2016 infocus awards have sought to redress this imbalance by celebrating, supporting and enabling women in innovation through a package of business support, as well as a grant of £50,000 with which to develop their innovations.

Though the UK university landscape is typified by high numbers of female graduates, and the majority of the country’s most educated workforce is female, women remain underrepresented in many key industries. The finalists of the 2016 infocus awards represent an inspiring cross-section of disciplines and passions; passions that Innovate UK hope to foster and help grow to meet their full potential.

Also achieving success this week at the National Business Awards was alumnus Angus Thirlwell who tasted sweet success with his company Hotel Chocolat.

Angus, an entrepreneur who attended Cranfield’s Business Growth Programme, won the Lloyds Bank Mid-Market Business of the Year, and collected the award with co-founder Peter Harris.

The judges remarked that: “Hotel Chocolat was a standout winner in this category. Not only has the company established a strong and aspirational luxury chocolate brand but it has also successfully rolled out its retail stores both in the UK and overseas. In addition, management have successfully executed an IPO in what can only be described as a backdrop of volatile market conditions. As an innovative company with a strong growth trajectory the judges were of the opinion that Hotel Chocolat is very worthy of the accolade of Mid-Market Business of the Year.”

Innovate UK infocus award
Siobhan Gardiner, 2nd from left, wins Innovate UK infocus award

Notes for editors

HEROTECH8 Ltd. is a recently launched startup aimed at enabling robotics for agricultural technology and humanitarian logistics. Siobhan’s other successes include a competition for pre-seed funding (£20K) from The Bettany Centre for Entrepreneurship.

About Cranfield University

Cranfield is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.