Staff Services Student Enterprise

Inclusivity through innovation

This UK Disability Month (Nov 16 – Dec 16), we look at the University of Edinburgh startups and spinouts supported by Edinburgh innovations, the University’s commercialisation service, that are helping to build a more inclusive world.


Euan MacDonald, founder of the Euan MacDonald Centre for Motor Neurone Disease Research at the University of Edinburgh, lost his own voice due to the effects of MND. He came up with the idea for SpeakUnique because he didn’t want his children to remember him with a voice that wasn’t his own, but found that communication aids only provided generic, ‘computerised’ voices.

Euan’s concept became a collaborative research project between the Euan MacDonald Centre and the University of Edinburgh Centre for Speech Technology Research, led by Alice Smith and based as the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic. The research project revealed that personalised voices help people retain their dignity, identity and a sense of control in the face of devasting and incurable diseases, as well as being meaningful to their loved ones. The team also discovered that high quality and rapid recordings could be made in people’s own homes thus removing the need for travel to a clinic, which many users with mobility issues would find difficult.


In the UK alone, more than 2.5 million people are currently living with hand weakness that can affect their ability to drive, cook, dress and perform countless other everyday tasks. The School of Engineering startup Bioliberty is harnessing robotics technology to assist and rehabilitate people with reduced hand strength, empowering them to live independently for longer.

After seeing a family member with MS struggle with reduced hand strength, MEng Electronics and Electrical Engineering with Management graduate Ross O’Hanlon was inspired to develop technology that can support and empower people suffering with hand weakness. By harnessing the very latest technological advancements, Bioliberty is helping to shape a future in which traumatic and degenerative conditions do not prevent people from living a longer dependent life.


Gradatim creates picture books for children under five, as this is one of the most common ages for illness and disability and yet one of the hardest to communicate complex information to. Founder Lizzie Smith has used her experience as a child with a complex healthcare condition to create a series wherein each book follows a character with a different condition from diagnosis to recovery.

The aim of Gradatim is to provide a health education tool that aids the wellbeing of parents, children and health professionals, and makes the journey less turbulent for all.


eMoodie came out of PhD research in the Usher Institute. Founder Claire Ann Banga was exploring the effects of digital technologies on emotional development and mental health problems in adolescents, and wondered if these same digital technologies could be used to monitor their effects.

eMoodie is an app created as a research tool for the express purpose of studying mental health symptoms, emotions, and health factors such as sleep in older children, teenagers and young adults.