Young Innovators Success Stories: Natalie Kerres, SCALED, London

Posted on: 29/11/2022

Using next-generation wearable tech to prevent athlete injuries

With humans living for longer, how can design support a better quality of life? It’s a question that led Natalie Kerres to start SCALED, a material innovation company that develops flexible and protective wearables for athletes.

When London-based Natalie received the Young Innovators Award, she was running SCALED with a small team of part-time contractors. She had a working prototype and had filed for IP, but the product had yet to be tested with end users.

Fast forward a year, and SCALED has made almost dizzying progress. The patent was granted, and Natalie has set up an online store and hired her first full-time employee. The business is on track to be profitable in Q2 2023.

“I’ve grown with each challenge during Innovate UK’s Young Innovators programme. I’m now more confident in what I do: I’m able to deliver projects successfully, report financials with authority, delegate tasks to our team and negotiate collaborations,” Natalie says.

“SCALED today is not a university project anymore, rather a real company operating internationally.”

Testing and iterating

One of Natalie’s main challenges with SCALED was finding end users to test her prototype. Running tests with athletes and piloting her product was a key milestone of her time in the Young Innovators programme.

“My background in design engineering taught me to always focus on human-centred design. Testing and iterating our product is and was always a priority.

“Before the programme, we were unsure how to secure testers for our product, how to reach them and how to acquire customers. With the help of Innovate UK EDGE’s Design for Growth initiative, we designed our first pilot with athletes from the UK,” she says.

Natalie describes the user feedback she received as “amazing”, and an invaluable part of developing their Beat 2.0 wrist guard. Test users for Beat 2.0 include the British Diving team in training for the 2024 Olympics.

Plan for tomorrow

Natalie believes the mentoring aspect of the Young Innovators Award had the biggest impact on how she runs the business.

“My business mentor had the most beneficial effect on me personally and on the company. The weekly sessions kept us on track and helped to reflect on mistakes, learn from the past and plan for tomorrow,” she says.

Natalie’s Innovation Champion from Innovate UK EDGE, Christos Arapis, also helped to grow her network. He introduced her to wider stakeholders, business partners and more support through Innovate UK.

“I can say with confidence that we would not have been able to accelerate our business activities in the way we did without Christos Arapis. As for business mentoring, I am recommending the Young Innovators programme to my colleagues and network.”

Share the good and the bad

Natalie advises future Young Innovators Award winners to engage with the programme’s mentoring from the beginning. The skills she learnt, like project management, have already come in useful when working with major clients.

“Share good and bad things with your mentor and don’t be afraid to ask a stupid question. I have a design engineering background, so I’m not familiar with business terms and activities. My business mentor helped me to overcome those challenges and made me feel confident when raising external investment and successfully negotiating with international corporations,” she says.

“I am currently applying for Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation Award just to receive further bespoke business support from Innovate UK.”

New partnerships

It’s set to be a busy year for SCALED, as Natalie puts new skills into practice and builds on the progress made so far.

Her plans include a partnership with innovative UK manufacturers DMOrthotics to enter the medical market, and new hires for her team.

“We want to grow our team to five full-time employees and raise seed funding. We also plan on increasing our product portfolio with selected partners in the wearable industry of sports tech, medical orthotics and work safety,” she says.

 

 

Join us and become part of the Young Innovators community. Find out more about the programme here.

Read the other Young Innovators’ success stories here.

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