Meet the 10 innovators from OpenDoor: Plexal’s inclusion accelerator programme

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  • Innovation centre has revealed the 10 cohort members for its 12-week accelerator programme, which will support products, services or projects that make work more inclusive 

  • OpenDoor follows the launch of Eagle Lab at Plexal and the East London Inclusive Enterprise Zone, cementing Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park as the nerve centre for London’s inclusive innovation sector

Plexal, the innovation centre and coworking space based at Here East, today reveals the innovators who have been selected for OpenDoor: its inclusion accelerator programme. This year’s programme supports social entrepreneurs with products, services or projects that make work more inclusive and enable under-represented groups to access better economic opportunities.

The programme is an example of the inclusive innovation model Plexal is championing, and follows news that Plexal, Here East and UCL are to launch the East London Inclusive Enterprise Zone at Here East to support and scale inclusive, disability-led innovation as well as the launch of Eagle Lab at Plexal, aimed at including everyone in Industry 4.0 and the skills needed for tomorrow’s economy. 

The cohort is made up from innovators and social entrepreneurs with a broad range of mission statements, from using technology to help children with autism develop their social skills to improving the accessibility of airports.

As part of the selection process, Plexal has chosen organisations that can show the target audience is either heavily represented in the team, or that they have been – or will be – included in the design and development of the solution. For example, Rezene Woldeyesus, co-director of cohort member Love Language, is himself Deaf and started his business with co-director Naomi Bottrill after arriving in the UK from Eritrea as a refugee. And Nana Badu, founder of BADU Community, started his organisation (which is aimed at empowering young people through the power of sport and community) after experiencing first-hand the impact poverty and a lack of a support system can have on a young person. 

Over 12 weeks, Plexal will provide members with tailored workshops, one-to-one support and mentoring designed to help them develop their solutions and business models. Partners committed to support the cohort include Mete Coban, chief executive of political engagement charity My Life My Say. Plexal’s inclusive innovation method will also see cohort members being introduced to partners, investors, corporates or fellow startups and tech entrepreneurs to encourage non-competitive collaborations.

The cohort members are:

  1. Autsera, an organisation that empowers children with autism using technology and design thinking to make efficient, affordable and accessible social and communications skills learning tools.

  2. BADU Community, which uses education, community and the power of sport to broaden, advance, develop and understand young people. BADU Community (which is also a Plexal member) takes a holistic approach, working with schools, young people and their entire family and support networks.

  3. Disability Rights UK, the charity campaigning to strengthen and protect disabled people's rights so that everyone can participate equally in society.

  4. Fledglink, which, through its free app, is on a mission to be the most helpful and supportive platform for diverse young people as they journey through the final years of education and into work. Fledgelink is giving young people equal access to knowledge, support and opportunity inclusion.

  5. Grid Smarter Cities, which has also taken part in Plexal’s London RoadLab mobility programme, has developed ADAPT (Assistance for Disabled Air Passenger Travel) to make it easier for people travelling by air to navigate through the airport and access assistance services, including requesting assistance in real-time.

  6. Love Learning, a new venture that’s a collaboration between Plexal members Idea East and Love Language. Love Learning is an in-development suite of services for employers and employees to support workplaces in becoming diversity-ready.

  7. iOrbit, which is also a Plexal member, provides flexible business solutions for entrepreneurs and SMEs in the tech sector. It also offers flexible working contracts to single mothers to help them gain experience and confidence, making it easier for them to get back into work or start a career.

  8. Inclusion London, which supports over 70 Deaf and disabled people’s organisations in London and campaigns for equality.

  9. Pocket Pals is on a mission to transform how children experience the natural world with the use of animation and augmented reality. It aims to become the first animation studio with a focus on natural history, creating a range of products for conservation charities, families and schools.

  10. Sociability, which empowers social inclusion through better accessibility information. Its app allows anyone to quickly and easily find detailed and reliable accessibility information for local shops and hospitality venues. And by partnering with local charities, businesses and community groups, it’s building a reliable, accurate and free crowdsourced database of venue accessibility information.

Andrew Roughan, managing director, Plexal, said: “We’re excited to reveal the 10 organisations that make up our very first OpenDoor cohort. OpenDoor is a hugely important part of Plexal’s inclusion work that will support up-and-coming ideas that have the potential to make a huge difference to workspaces and the sort of opportunities people from under-represented groups have. Together with the launch of the East London Inclusive Enterprise Zone, it feels like now is the moment for the inclusive innovation sector to really take off – and east London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is the absolute nerve centre for this.”

Full details on the programme and the cohort can be found at: plexal.com/open-door

Inclusive Innovation in the footsteps of the 2012 Paralympic Games

OpenDoor is another example of the unique role Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (where Plexal’s based) is playing as a globally leading hotbed, testbed and launchpad for inclusive innovation. Organisations focused on disability-led innovation and better policy for disabled people such as Scope, Disability Rights UK, Love Language and the Global Disability Innovation Hub at UCL are all based on the Here East campus. As an example, the GDI Hub is delivering a UK Aid funded £20m global programme on assistive technology. Plexal’s members also include social innovators such as Nana Badu, founder of BADU Community, and Mete Coban, chief executive of My Life My Say.

And in September 2019, it was announced that UCL, Plexal, Here East and partners such as the London Legacy Development Corporation have launched the East London Inclusive Enterprise Zone (ELIEZ): the first fully accessible, specially designed space for entrepreneurs and businesses leaders who are disabled, or focused on servicing disabled people. The goal is to launch 100 new startups and kickstart the UK’s first inclusive innovation sector that foster inclusive technological, social and economic growth for everyone.

Barclays has also just launched Eagle Lab at Plexal: its flagship Eagle Labs makers’ space in the UK that will host workshops and events for the wider community to help equip everyone with the skills needed for Industry 4.0. 

 

Nadine SandcroftComment