Five women trailblazers from South East win national award and £50,000 each in government funding

From upcycling waste makeup into paints to AI technology unearthing undetected archaeological sites, Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation Awards will empower five pioneering women from the South East to scale their innovative businesses.

These five women entrepreneurs are amongst this year’s 50 winners of Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation Awards who are developing novel solutions to major social, environmental and economic challenges. Each winner will benefit from a £50,000 grant, one-to-one business coaching, and a suite of networking, role modelling, and training opportunities.

Coinciding with International Women’s Day (Wednesday 8 March), the Awards reflect the government’s ambition to give more support to women innovators and business leaders.

The range of innovations from across the UK are vast, from health tech to education and from protecting lives to new ways to play music. The entrepreneurs from the South East are recognised today on International Women’s Day which is encouraging people to “embrace equity”. They are:

  • Iris Kramer, from Reading, Founder of ArchAI, who has developed software to detect undiscovered archaeological sites, using artificial intelligence and satellite imagery. Iris is already working with the Forestry Commission and the National Trust to locate new sites of interest and is helping the construction industry to de-risk new build sites.
  • Ameenah Begum, from Portsmouth, Founder of Planet Friendly Paint, who is supporting the circular economy by upcycling waste makeup into unique, zero-waste watercolour paints to help tackle Europe’s multi-million cosmetic waste problem.
  • Alison Callwood, from Guildford, who has founded recruitment technology start-up Sammi-Select, to ensure the online recruitment process is fairer and less biased, by removing barriers like unconscious bias that can hinder career opportunities for neurodivergent people.
  • Inas Ismail, from Surrey, Co-founder of Autsera, who is creating game apps that help children with special needs develop their social and communication skills, enabling them to gain confidence and become more independent socially, having felt lost trying to get timely and effective support for her own child.
  • Melanie Schatynski, from Brighton, who has founded My Code Kit and is making coding accessible to everyone through her unique educational tool Ocobox where anyone can have a go at coding and learn confidently.


The flagship Women in Innovation Awards is a key part of Innovate UK’s commitment to boosting the number of women entrepreneurs. Innovate UK will give all 50 trailblazers £50,000 and bespoke mentoring and coaching to enable them to scale-up their businesses.

Now in its sixth year, the competition drew a record number of 920 applications from women business leaders, 10% up from last year, reflecting the growing number of women-led businesses in the UK (according to the Rose Review Progress Report 2023, 20% of all UK businesses are now led by all-women teams).

Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation programme continues to support high-potential women business leaders from diverse backgrounds. With a passion to support underrepresented innovation talent, 22% of the winners are Black, Asian, or from another ethnic minority group and 12% have identified as disabled.

Commenting on her innovation and Award, Ameenah Begum of Planet Friendly Paint said, “I’m passionate about the way we choose to treat our planet and I want to encourage people to make more conscious decisions in their purchasing habits. I feel incredibly privileged to have won this Innovate UK Award and it fills me with confidence for the future. It’s come at a critical time for me to re-strategise and make my vision tangible. Now is the time for sustainable innovation to really flourish – before it’s too late.”

Emily Nott, Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Programmes at Innovate UK said, “Each year I am blown away by the brilliant ideas and talent we uncover through our Women in Innovation programme. Despite these challenging economic times, this year’s winners have shown great leadership, passion and resilience in driving their innovations forward. Innovate UK will work alongside them now to ensure they have the resources and support required to grow and scale their businesses, while encouraging a new generation of women to get involved in innovation, pursue their ambitions and transform our economy and society.”

Indro Mukerjee, CEO of Innovate UK, said, “The Innovate UK Women in Innovation programme is an important part of our many activities to make a real difference to the talent and skills pipeline for UK business innovation by inspiring, involving and investing in greater diversity. I warmly congratulate all the Women in Innovation Award winners and look forward to keeping in touch as they progress.”


Details on all 50 women innovators can be found here:


If you’re an aspiring woman innovator, check out how Innovate UK could support you here: