The UK’s most accessible technology hub to drive disability innovation and assistive technology has been launched today by UCL, Plexal and Here East.
The East London Inclusive Enterprise Zone (ELIEZ) is the first fully accessible, specially designed space for entrepreneurs and businesses leaders who are disabled, or are focused on servicing disabled people.
It will feature an innovation lab optimised for accessibility, which will accelerate the development of needed products and services through from idea stage to global deployment. The zone will also coordinate the delivery of accessible innovation education, training and events.
About 15% of the global population has a form of disability, yet disabled people are frequently excluded from the opportunities available to non-disabled people.
As an example of this exclusion, only one in ten disabled people has access to the assistive technology they require to go to school, work, or have a family. In the UK, the disability employment gap – the difference in the rate of employment of disabled people and non-disabled people – has remained at around 30% for a decade.
The new hub aims to support entrepreneurship and transform the business of accessible innovation from a cottage industry into a fledgling sector, which drives better inclusion and productivity.
The zone will build on the success of the Global Disability Innovation (GDI) Hub based at UCL, which already provides exceptional disability-focused teaching, research and innovation as well as delivering a UK Aid funded £20m global programme on assistive technology.
Recently, the GDI Hub team partnered with a company called Amparo to evaluate the use of its lower limb prosthetics in Kenya. Together, they aim to reduce the cost and difficulties of lower limb prosthetic manufacturing and ensure people in low and middle-income countries can access the prosthetic services that they need.
Dr Catherine Holloway, the Academic Director of the GDI Hub at UCL, said: “The East London Inclusive Enterprise Zone builds on the legacy of the London 2012 Paralympic Games – the most successful Paralympic Games ever. More importantly, it will nurture a new generation of diverse entrepreneurs and innovators who are committed to developing a better, fairer future for all people.
“Our aim is to launch 100 new startups which will then kick-start the UK’s first inclusive innovation sector and foster inclusive technological, social and economic growth for the benefit of all.”
In addition, UCL Innovation & Enterprise will use its business expertise to support the ambitions of the ELIEZ and deliver on the potential of inclusive innovation. The team has a successfully supported the launch of 68 graduate startups at UCL’s BaseKX incubator in the past 12 months, attracting £7.5m of external investment.
Dr Celia Caulcott, UCL’s Vice-Provost (Enterprise), said: “We believe that universities like UCL must work together with industry, third sector and government to solve complex social, environmental and technological challenges. The East London Inclusive Enterprise Zone exemplifies the sort of sustainable, inclusive growth we might aim for in the future.
“Improving the lives of all people with disabilities is something we as a society should absolutely be striving to achieve under any circumstances. At the same time, this project has the added benefit of effectively creating new market sectors – stimulating local economies and also increasing overall productivity.”