Women In Innovation Success Stories: Vijayalakshmi Subramani, Kerckhoffs Ltd, North East England
Using VR headsets to drive inclusion
To make a difference in the world, it can be helpful to have a platform – and that’s exactly what being named a winner of an Innovate UK Women in Innovation Award meant to Vijayalakshmi Subramani, founder of Kerckhoffs Ltd.
Their product, TeenyWeenyVR, is designed to enhance the learning experience of children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, leveraging the power of virtual reality (VR) and immersive technologies to drive inclusion for groups who have been marginalised through physical or neurological disability.
Since joining the Programme, Vijayalakshmi has built her profile across the North East of England, and further afield. “I have managed to enlist a diverse stakeholder base on an international scale,” she says, “and I have cemented these networks by travelling and working with people who are, like me, passionate about brokering the benefits technology can bring for the people who need it most.”
Balancing business and personal challenges
It hasn’t always been an easy journey for Vijayalakshmi, who has had to learn to balance her growing business with caring for her autistic son and her husband, who has physical disabilities.
As well as this, she says: “As a person from a non-technical background and a first-generation entrepreneur, it required dedicated and focused work to learn the technology and earn deserved respect from several stakeholders of my innovation.”
The support she received during the Women in Innovation Programme went a long way to helping her tackle this.
“Interacting with fellow awardees not only helped me to share knowledge but also identify potential partners,” she says. “The knowledge gained in the Bootcamps helped me to refine my business plan and value propositions. Above all, the support that I have received from my Innovate UK EDGE Innovation & Growth Specialist, Allan Jeff, has been immense and through his mentoring, I have understood the nuances of innovative tech businesses and fast forwarding my innovation to the market.”
A transformative 12 months, and many more ahead
As well as gaining confidence, TeenyWeenyVR has hit a number of key milestones over the last year. They have hired and trained additional staff and created VR content for tourist attractions in locations ranging from the UK to India, Ukraine, Lithuania, Morocco, Kenya and Slovenia. They have also established strong partnerships with regional edutainment and entertainment partners, as well as made contacts with investors and tourism stakeholders across the globe.
Now Vijayalakshmi is working on her business plan with the intention of raising £250,000 in the next 12 months and over the next five years she hopes to have reached at least 100,000 children with her product.
Driving her forward is her passion for the difference she wants to make in the world. “Any solution which solves the problems of people with disabilities would solve everyone’s problem,” she says. “Inclusive innovation is very important for our society and women like us deserve to be encouraged and supported.”