Celebrating innovation: 5 UK female founders and innovators to know about


International Women’s Day is more than just a one-day celebration, it’s about recognising the amazing contributions that women make in all walks of life.  This year’s theme is ‘choose to challenge’ bias, inequality and underrepresentation. And nowhere is this more important than across Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) – all areas which have historically seen lower numbers of female workers. 

With over 500 science and tech businesses working across 8 UK campuses, Bruntwood SciTech is home to hundreds of female inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs who are helping to bridge this gender gap and showcase the huge advantages that diversity brings to science and tech. 

So who are some of the UK’s most innovative female founders and what do they do? Here are five female-led businesses to know about…

Tiffany Thorne, CEO at BiVictriX

Located in a cluster of world-leading life science and tech businesses at Alderley Park is BiVictriX. Founded by Tiffany Thorne, BiVictriX is creating a pipeline of safer and more effective anti-cancer therapies with its unique therapeutic platform, Bi-Cygni. This platform targets BiVictriX’s proprietary library of cancer-specific twin antigen fingerprints that are present on the cancer cells, but are absent from healthy cells in order to reduce the harmful side effects of cancer treatment.

Since its inception in 2017, Tiffany has successfully raised £2.3M investment for BiVictriX with help from Alderley Park’s Accelerator, and continues to develop its game-changing therapies. 

Speaking about her journey and the inspiration behind founding BiVictriX, Tiffany said:

“Initially I trained and qualified as a Clinical Immunologist at Manchester Royal Infirmary, where one of my key roles was in the diagnosis and management of some of the most aggressive forms of leukaemia. Here I became aware of the urgent need for safer and more effective therapies to improve patient outcomes and turned my attention to working on next generation antibody based therapeutic approaches. 

“I suggested that a concept widely used as an efficient diagnostic platform could be applied, for the first time, to these next generation approaches to form a novel class of therapeutics with superior cancer selectivity. This was the basis for BiVictriX.’’ 

Dr Marilyn Comrie, Director at The Blair Project and CEO of MIAH

You can’t talk about Manchester’s thriving tech sector without coming across the amazing Dr Marilyn Comrie, Director at the Blair Project and CEO at the new Manchester Innovation Activities Hub (MIAH) set to open in 2022.

Based at Circle Square, The Blair Project is a social enterprise that uses the excitement of building and racing electric go-karts to help marginalised young people explore careers and passions in science, technology, engineering and maths, especially girls and young people from Black Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds or low income households. 

After noticing a lack of workshop space and makerspace to integrate new technologies into the go-karts, on top of realising the importance of upskilling and reskilling local talent across Greater Manchester, Marilyn Comrie joined with Bruntwood SciTech to create MIAH – a new workshop space and vocational training centre dedicated to the rapid upskilling, reskilling and retraining of more than 5,000 local residents over the next 5 years, which will be located at Base at Manchester Science Park. 

Marilyn said: “MIAH will make it easier for SMEs to collaborate and innovate new products and services to speed up the green industrial revolution. Since we’ve been part of Bruntwood SciTech’s network we’ve been able to find the right funding and support to turn MIAH into a reality, including part of the £4m government support secured for Base in the ‘Build Back Better’ Fund.

Grace Hulse, Head of Cyber & Innovation at the Cyber Resilience Centre for Greater Manchester

Recently appointed as Head of Cyber & Innovation at the Cyber Resilience Centre in Manchester, Grace Hulse is another inspirational female located at Manchester’s Circle Square.

Having served 18 years with Greater Manchester Police, Grace is bringing valuable knowledge and experience in Local Policing, Cyber & Economic Crime, Child Protection, Domestic Violence and Major Investigations, which will support the Cyber Resilience Centre to work more closely with Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (NWROCU), to provide accessible, consistent, government-backed support and training to organisations of all sizes.

The Cyber Resilience Centre focuses solely on businesses based in Greater Manchester and the North West. Grace said: ”My passion for digital investigations came when I worked in the major incident team as a digital media investigator. Working in cybercrime I have managed investigations and developed connections across forces around the UK.

“I hope to see businesses across the region improve cyber awareness and grow their resilience to the latest online crimes.’’

Nasra Hagi, Founder of Recognize

Over at Innovation Birmingham, the region’s largest digital tech campus, Nasra Hagi is helping to improve the mental health of women across the UK who have just given birth. After working as a nurse and midwife for years, Nasra founded Recognize with the aim of helping the struggle some women encounter before, during and after pregnancy which often goes unnoticed or isn’t spoken about. 

Nasra said: “Recognize Ltd is my response to years of frustration and concern. Ultimately my aim is for every mother to have free coaching, paid for by the NHS. In the meantime, I’m providing a workplace wellbeing programme and one-to-one coaching for perinatal women to offer a number of different options to those struggling.

“Being located at Innovation Birmingham has massively helped this as I have been connected to organisations such as the West Midlands Academic Health Science Network who I am now working with to help get these services into the NHS.’’

Jane Rutter, Founder and CEO of Zeal Media

Zeal Media is one of the 80 disruptive digital and tech businesses located at Platform – the home of tech in Leeds. Founded by Jane Rutter, there’s not much that Zeal Media doesn’t help with when it comes to digital marketing. From building brands, websites and ecommerce platforms to UI and UX design, SEO, social media marketing and advertising, Zeal Media is helping businesses get in front of their audiences.

Speaking about her journey into tech, Jane said: “The first agency I ever worked for was amazing. I had an incredibly strong and impressive female role model and I instantly loved the industry and the people who worked in it. I knew I wanted my own agency and set myself a target to do it before I was 30. Over the next 6 years I dedicated myself to asking ALL the questions and learning as much as I could from a number of amazing and talented people. At 29 I resigned from my role and set up Zeal.

“We now work across many different sectors and work with lots of different sized clients. We especially love young, ambitious companies with big potential for growth. It’s been fantastic being located at Platform as we are co-located with other amazing businesses (some of which are now clients), so networking is always interesting here!.’’

Bruntwood SciTech

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