The UK’s most accessible technology hub to drive disability innovation and assistive technology was launched last week and is located within 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.
ELIEZ is a collaboration between, UCL, Plexal, Here East, Global Disability Innovation Hub, Disability Rights UK, Capital Enterprise, Greater London Authority, Loughborough University, London College of Fashion, UAL, Hackney Council, Ford Mobility, Inclusion London, Barclays Eagle Labs, and the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC).
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.
Professor Tracy Bhamra, Loughborough University’s Pro-Vice Chancellor of Enterprise said: "We are hugely proud to be part of this landmark activity at our campus on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. This new space will enable us to support another diverse group of founders who are developing solutions to improve the world around us."
The zone will build on the success of the Global Disability Innovation (GDI) Hub, which already provides exceptional disability-focused teaching, research and innovation as well as delivering a UK Aid funded £20m global programme on assistive technology.
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."
The ELIEZ delivers on the area’s Paralympic Legacy and will bring a positive impact on the local east London community, creating thriving new businesses, employment and growth.
Science Minister Chris Skidmore said: "Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy, and London has a thriving ecosystem of local businesses and entrepreneurs whose creativity and determination help underpin the UK’s position as a leading innovator.
"Alongside this, many of London’s research community are right on the precipice of turning ground-breaking ideas into real products and services which could change the lives not just of people in the local community, but people around the world."
Deputy Mayor of London for Business, Rajesh Agrawal, said: “The Mayor and I are committed to ensuring all Londoners can participate in our thriving economy. This exciting new project is an important step in making this a reality and creating new opportunities for disabled entrepreneurs. I’m thrilled that such a diverse group of partners has come together to create this new innovation zone and I look forward to seeing it help new startups grow and thrive."
ELIEZ is one of 20 University Enterprise Zones (UEZs), launched with a £20 million investment and delivered by Research England, part of UK Research and Innovation.
The £1.2 million project will receive £500,000 from Research England, match-funded by the partners and supported through in-kind contributions. This investment is a decisive step in a journey that will welcome further partnerships into an inclusive innovation ecosystem.