Double success for UWE Bristol at Red Women of the Year Awards

Issue date: 19 October 2016

The University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) is celebrating a double triumph at the Red Women of the Year Awards 2016.

There were prizes for assistive technologies researcher Dr Praminda Caleb-Solly and technology entrepreneur Samantha Payne at the annual award ceremony organised by women's lifestyle magazine Red.

Dr Caleb-Solly picked up the top award in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) category on Monday evening while Samantha was one of three winners in the Women to Watch category.

Both received praise for their work from high-profile judges, with Channel 4 News presenter Cathy Newman calling Dr Caleb-Solly a 'star in the male-dominated STEM firmament' and Facebook vice-president Nicola Mendelsohn hailing the technology used by Samantha's company for its potential to help millions of people.

Every year the awards bring together brilliant women across different industries, from charity founders to comedians and designers to scientists.

Dr Caleb-Solly was selected from five shortlisted nominees to be named the most inspirational woman in STEM in 2016.

She is an Associate Professor in Independent Living Systems at UWE Bristol, working in the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, and head of electronics and computer systems for the UK assistive technology charity Designability. Her work focuses on developing technological solutions for people living with disabilities or long-term health conditions. She played an influential part in developing SAM (Self-help for Anxiety Management), an app to help people to understand their anxiety, monitor anxious thoughts and follow self-help exercises. Last year, SAM reached a huge milestone by achieving 500,000 free downloads worldwide.

Of her work, judge Cathy Newman said: “Praminda is a star in the male-dominated STEM firmament, but as well as fulfilling her potential, her tech wizardry has helped disabled people lead more fulfilling lives, too. Her app is practical and ingenious.”

Dr Caleb-Solly said: “I am thrilled and honoured to receive this award, particularly as the other nominees in this category are amazing ambassadors for STEM as well and excelling in their area. It is brilliant that Red are championing this as we need to encourage and support more women and girls to consider working in STEM as a fulfilling and creative choice and reaching out through all channels to do this is vital. All my work here at UWE Bristol and at Designability is conducted in collaboration with inspirational colleagues without whom none of my accomplishments would have been possible – it's all about team work and my utmost thanks goes to all the wonderful people I work with.”

Samantha is co-founder and chief operating officer of Open Bionics, which developed in business incubator space at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory located at UWE Bristol's Frenchay campus. She was successful in the Women to Watch category along with Clementine Chambon, co-founder of sustainable energy business Oorja, and writer, actress and producer Michaela Coel.

Robotics start-up Open Bionics uses 3D printing technology to create low-cost bionic hands for amputees of all ages. The company has gained the license to produce robotic hands inspired by Marvel and Star Wars. It is also working on building robotic hands that mirror human actions, such as gripping and giving a thumbs up or down. Last year Open Bionics won several awards, including the James Dyson Award 2015 and Robotics Business Review's Top 50 Most Influential Robotics Companies 2015.

Of Samantha's work, judge Nicola Mendelsohn said: “Samantha's commitment to making this technology accessible to everyone will help millions of people.”

Samantha said: “I feel incredibly honoured to have received this award in the company of so many amazing women, and I'm thrilled Red magazine has highlighted Open Bionics' innovative work. I'm super proud of our whole team.”

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