Black History Month: Celebrating UK Innovators and Entrepreneurs

Posted on: 01/10/2020

Black History Month 2020 is a time to celebrate, look forward and explore the future possibilities that innovation and entrepreneurship provide.

To mark Black History Month, KTN is celebrating some of the inspiring and dynamic black innovators and entrepreneurs that are part of our network, and the exciting work they are doing to drive positive change in the world.

Nile Henry

CEO of The Blair Project

Nile is the founder and CEO of The Blair Project, a disruptive social enterprise that exists to inspire the next generation of high tech engineers through electric karting, digital manufacturing and design project based activities. Nile created, developed and secured funding support for an exciting STEM education programme called the ProtoEV Challenge where student/apprenticeship teams aged 13-19 convert used petrol go-karts into fully electric e-karts that they test and race to see which is the fastest and most energy efficient.

Nile is a member of the Manchester Climate Change Youth Board, and sits on the GM Social Enterprise Advisory Group that advises the metro Mayor Andy Burnham, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the Local Enterprise Partnership on how to create the best conditions for social enterprises to thrive.”

The Blair Project uses the excitement of building and racing electric go karts to inspire and enthuse underrepresented youth to pursue rewarding careers in the digital, tech and engineering sectors. Diversity in STEM is their core purpose. With their partners Manchester Science Park, they secured £4 million of central government funding for a new Industry 4.0 technical and vocational skills training centre called the Manchester Innovation Activities Hub. MIAH will specialise in rapid upskilling, reskilling and re-training of local residents in clean growth, advanced manufacturing and health and innovation technologies and fast track them into hard to fill occupations.

“The elitism & high costs of Motorsport prevents grassroots talent like my brother Blair from coming through. My goal was to make the sport more affordable, accessible, inclusive and greener.”

Ellenor McIntosh

Director of Operations and Cofounder of Twipes 

Ellenor McIntosh is the cofounder and inventor of Twipes, the first genuinely flushable wet wipe. As a female leader and scientist, she is committed to creating sustainable solutions to environmental challenges and community well-being. She has been listed as one of Forbes 30 under 30 this year, and received the Diana Award for her humanitarian work in science in 2019. She also received the Mayor of London’s Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2017 and was honoured at the Black British Business Awards in 2016.

Twipes is the world’s first truly flushable wet wipe! The wipes are made of wood pulp, breaking down in water in just three hours. They are entirely plastic-free, therefore they don’t contribute to microplastics in our oceans and won’t wreak havoc with sewer blockages and clogged pipes. They are anti-bacterial, paraben-free, and alcohol-free making them safe for our bodies and safe for our planet.

“The key to making changes will be transforming our every-day products to make them safe for the environment, while making sure these eco-conscious choices are affordable and accessible to everyone.”

Julian Hall 

Founder and CEO of #AskUltra

Featured on Forbes, Julian ‘The Ultrapreneur’ Hall is the CEO and founder of the world’s first artificial intelligence chatbot that can teach entrepreneurship to kids and teens called #AskUltra. He’s co-written 3 degrees in entrepreneurship, launched the UK’s first mobile game for kids entrepreneurship and founded a multi award winning social enterprise called Ultra Education C.I.C.

As recently elected freeman of the Guild of Entrepreneurs and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Julian’s ambition is to make entrepreneurial education available to every child globally.  AskUltra is an A.I. powered chatbot that teaches entrepreneurship to kids 8-14 yrs old, they are closing the gap between education and employability by leveraging machine learning and our deep understanding of the education and business market. There’s an urgent skills shortage required for the future of work affecting almost 2 Billion children worldwide and 15 million under 18’s in the UK. COVID-19 has massively increased the use of educational technology to support child development.

“The intersection of entrepreneurship and technology has increased my life chances by what feels like 100X coming from one of the most deprived boroughs in London. Being an entrepreneur gives me the freedom to create solutions to problems that I can see in the world.”

Lena Rosenior  

CEO of De Graft Management Limited

Lena has 20+ years’ experience developing software in the UK, Ghana and Kenya and 15 years’ working in the Built Environment as a Property Manager, Investor and Developer. She has extensive experience in user-centred systems research and development working closely with users; defining requirements, producing feasibility studies and system specifications, implementing and training. She is also a keen tennis player!

Their award winning technology introduces novel property & asset management digitisation in banking, insurance, housing and government in Africa; improving efficiencies, reducing fraud and increasing accountability. The DGM Property & Asset Management system processes properties, landlords, occupiers, suppliers, maintenance and expenditure. The Asset Management modules track the lifecycle of physical assets, reporting on the condition, servicing, ownership, location and value. 

They are developing an AI platform to automate remote working and help their clients during COVID-19. They are transferring skills; creating employment and supporting the management of challenges resulting from rapid urbanisation. 

“My family inspires me every single day; from my amazing parents and siblings who worked hard to create a new world for our children who now proudly hold the baton.”

Dr Ifeyinwa Kanu

CEO and Founder of IntelliDigest Limited

Dr Ifeyinwa Kanu loves nature and is passionate about creating Engineering solutions to address environmental challenges. Ifeyinwa has a PhD in Civil-Environmental Engineering from Heriot Watt University involving application of Artificial Intelligence and omics analysis to optimize anaerobic processes.

She has a solid and progressive experience in all aspects of Civil Engineering, specialising in water, wastewater and waste to bioresources. Ifeyinwa has filed patents on a novel anaerobic process and a novel municipal wastewater treatment process for resource recovery, raised a series of grant funding as well as executing RBS Back Her Business crowdfunding successfully.  

Their innovative technologies built on cutting edge research involve the use of embedded sensors and Artificial Intelligence in an automated bio-upcycler – iDigest to characterise food waste, optimising enzyme dosing which efficiently breaks down the food waste to sustainable chemicals.  

They are collaborating with world class organisations- EIT Food and United Nations FAO (UNFAO) to deliver Independent Capacity Building Training to bridge the awareness gap in the food supply chain from farm to fork with follow-on consultancy support.

“I love nature and passionate about developing engineering solutions to address environmental challenges”

Joel Blake OBE

Founder & CEO of GFA Exchange

Joel is a multi-award-winning businessman and public speaker, with a passion for accelerating business growth through inclusive financial technology. He is the Founder & CEO of GFA Exchange, an award-winning fintech company that provides a portfolio risk management solution to help reduce risk and cost for financial services firms. 

He is the former Executive for Growing Business and Access to Finance (GBSLEP), advises professional services and public sector organisations on the development of inclusive business ecosystems. In 2019, he was highlighted as one of the UK’s Top 50 most influential black voices in tech. He was awarded an OBE for Services to Business Support and Enterprise in 2016.

GFA Exchange is a cloud based portfolio risk management solution. It enables financial lenders to benchmark, monitor and trade intelligence on customer’s business performance at scale. This helps lenders to unlock unique intelligence that they can access, to find the best business most suited to their own portfolio and risk profile, reduce their internal financial risk and operational cost and enable business to access the support that they need to grow, all for a monthly subscription fee.

“Traditional lending risk models are not fit for purpose. Lenders need better intelligence to make more informed decisions, with what they all want – good performing businesses with high growth potential.”

Jessica Ryan-Ndegwa

Founder of Design for Disability Ltd and Disability Advocate/Freelance Writer

Born with Cerebral Palsy, which affects balance and short-term memory Jessica has always taken an interest in helping people, which has made her look out on the world with a positive attitude rather than seeing it as something negative. Her background in Design and Disability has given her a rounded and unique perspective allowing her to contextualise Design and Disability with depth and understanding. 

After working on her business for almost 5 years she is taking a new detour, still within Design and Disability, but with more focus around her personal journey with a disability and what it means to her. Design for Disability is a design and advocacy platform that discusses and embraces inclusivity in design through product design, workshops, blogging, talks and events.

“Going through life experiencing things being done for you on a daily basis frustrated me. My aim is to change this perspective of what it means to be ‘disabled’.”

Melissa Berthelot

CEO of WarnerPatch

Melissa Berthelot, PhD, MRes, MSc, has an engineering background in embedded systems and software development. She is also a Fellow at the Enterprise Hub of the Royal Academy of Engineering. Particularly focusing on developing patient-centric tools for clinicians, Melissa has experience in fast-tracked medical device prototypes and conducting in-vivo clinical studies.

WarnerPatch is a medical device that predicts disease evolution for clinicians to give preventive care, improve patient outcome and save care costs. WarnerPatch comes as a non-invasive, wearable wireless (using 2G network) sensor that continuously measures the disease symptoms. With advanced data analytics (AI) on the continuous measurements, a prediction on the future evolution is given with notification should degradation be predicted. Clinicians can access the results on a real time basis and get notified when a patient becomes high risk. It aims to help provide a closer follow-up of high-risk patients.

“Never give up, the current circumstances will get better.”

Simon Ighofose

CEO of PyroGenesys Ltd

Co-founder CEO of PyroGenesys Ltd Simon Ighofose, is co-inventor of the “PyroPower” waste-to-energy containerised technology which simultaneously converts agricultural waste to renewable electricity, process heat & biofuels.

Before retraining as a Chemical Engineer, gaining a Master’s degree specialising in the catalytic pyrolysis of biomass to produce biofuels, Simon managed Local Government grant programmes funding up to 20 projects, along with grants & contracts worth up to £4.5 million. Simon was the 1st “Voluntary Director” of Leicester City Council, is a consortium builder & the project lead for 5 international consortia funded by Innovate UK. 

PyroGenesys is a bioenergy & biofuels technology developer & service provider primarily concerned with meeting the renewable energy needs of under-served communities across Sub-Saharan Africa. The company’s containerised waste-to-energy “PyroPower” technology uses pyrolysis to simultaneously convert food manufacturing & agricultural waste to renewable electricity, process heat, solid & liquid biofuels.

“A bioenergy epiphany in 2011 and my motto ‘All things work together for good’ led to 6-years higher education, the incorporation of PyroGenesys, invention, partnership formation, innovation, growth & development.”

Dr Pearl Jarrett

Group CEO & Disruptive Changemaker of The Jarrett Foundation

In 2005, she was diagnosed with Cancer. After winning the fight of her life, she had a second chance, so she was going to do ALL the things she’d ever wanted to do which she either talked herself out of or allowed others to talk her out of. She drew up a bucket list and started to achieve them one by one, ticking them off. Firstly, she wanted to go on a cruise, she has since become a “serial cruiser”. She wanted to start an international children’s charity (done), start a business (done), become a Doctor (done), become an actress (done).

Dr Pearl Jarrett’s international charitable company is called The Jarrett Foundation. They are big on sustainability. Having worked at central government level with Caribbean governments, they have seen opportunities for innovation. They are currently negotiating a phenomenal deal with Investors to put free solar energy in every school in Jamaica, with the view of rolling out the business model to every school, in every country in the Caribbean. This will assist each Caribbean government to fulfil their UN Sustainable Development Goal No.7 to their citizens: Ensure Access to Affordable, Reliable, Sustainable and Modern Energy. 

“I was watching CNN and I saw some people doing phenomenal things. CNN called them ‘changemakers’. I realised then, that’s what I was. Since then I’ve called myself a ‘Disruptive Changemaker’.”

Kurt Henderson

Co-Founder & Product, Head of Design of RASSA

Multi-disciplinary designer of thought-provoking, cultural and useful things. Experimental concept designer by background and hat wearer in the foreground. Third time founder and entrepreneur featured on the BBC, Evening standard, Startups Mag and more.

RASSA is your interactive cooking library helping you discover recipes with heritage, tradition, stories and culinary knowledge from chefs around the world. Learn new ways to cook, and enjoy incredible food from the comfort of your own home.

“The ever changing shift of culture and technology and how the two live through one another.”

Anike Mlemchukwu

Founder of Lapapo Special Needs

For the past twelve years, Anike has worked with children with additional needs. This included summer camps and an orphanage in Peru. After gaining a PGCE from the University of Cambridge, she worked as a special needs teacher. She noticed that caring for a child was challenging and taught herself to build Lapapo in order to help families. She believes this passion stemmed from being ill as a child, coupled with growing up in a single parent family. All of her work is focused on ensuring an inclusive and accessible future for children.

Lapapo is the first special needs marketplace in the UK that promotes a circular economy. It launched in April 2019 and has over 1000 product variations. There have been orders from Australia, America and Denmark. The product marketplace is coupled with a network of information from parents and experts. The vision is for Lapapo to be a world leader that supports millions of families. The view is that by increasing commercial awareness, stigma will be reduced, and inclusion will be increased.

“Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.”  Wayne Dyere

Byron Dixon OBE

CEO and Founder of Micro-Fresh®.

An entrepreneur at heart, when he was unable to afford a place at university at the age of 18, Byron dove straight into the industry, later securing a degree in Chemistry from The Open University.

Since developing Micro-Fresh® as an anti-fungal treatment in 2006, Byron has graduated from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, been listen in the Top 100 Rising Stars and Future Leaders of Leicestershire, awarded ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ by MSDUK, and in 2018, he received an OBE for his services to Industry and Innovation.

Izzy Obeng

Managing Director of Foundervine

Izzy Obeng is an entrepreneur and professional speaker leading Foundervine – a non-profit training consultancy connecting purpose-driven companies to impactful start-ups. Foundervine works in partnership with world-leading companies, government, and educational institutions to help diverse founders grow. Since 2018, Over 2,000 young people have been skilled by Foundervine programmes, over 300 startups launched with 62% female participation.

Izzy is a Non-Executive Director for Capital Enterprise, a body that has raised £815m for UK start-ups and a Non-Executive Director for Traverse, a consultancy changing the world of public services. She has been featured in the BBC, The Telegraph, The Times, Forbes and in 2019 was named by Tech Nation as one of the 50 most influential black voices in UK tech.

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” – Barack Obama

Gabrielle Patrick

CEO of Knabu Distributed Systems Ltd

Gabrielle is a UK & US lawyer with over 18 years experience at C-Level including running 23 territories of a large financial institution. She led the International Bar Association’s work on virtual currencies for over a decade. 

Knabu is a fintech with blockchain and cybersecurity subject matter expertise. Knabu is setting up B2B Clearing Bank for UK underbanked/underserved fintechs and banks.

“Parity, inclusion and equal opportunity enabled by technology.”

Molvia Maddox

Founder of Melting IceCubes

Molvia has forged a successful career as a Change Consultant working with organisations delivering business transformation. She has a natural ability to empathise with people and constantly strives to understand how they can best be supported through change. 22 years ago, changes in her family circumstance inspired a journey to develop a health platform providing help and support through health challenges. A tireless advocate for inclusivity for people who live with chronic health and/or impairment Molvia brought the concept of Melting IceCubes to fruition. Using tech for good she is committed to the platform being a force for positive change

Melting IceCubes is an intelligent system which takes initial queries from users and curates information from a variety of trusted resources and data sources; organises this and presents it back in an easy to digest way. Application programming linked to machine learning grows and develops from user interaction. Alongside links to high quality information it also enables social networking, blogging and support group creation all in one place, creating a 360-view of health queries whilst signposting relevant services and products. Melting IceCubes exists to support people grow their knowledge and confidence in health management.

“Our daughters’ genetic illness refocused us to support people living through health challenges. Knowledge helps people become less anxious informed partners in their health care ultimately leading to better outcomes.”

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