Ailbhe and Izzy Keane win EU’s Rising Innovator award

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The Irish entrepreneurs have won a €50,000 cash prize as part of the EU Prize for Women Innovators.

Out of a shortlist of 21 inspiring women entrepreneurs, Ireland’s Ailbhe and Izzy Keane took home the title of EU’s Rising Innovator award as part of the European Prize for Women Innovators.

Celebrating its 10th year, the European Prize for Women Innovators is funded by the EU’s Horizon Europe programme for research and innovation and managed by the European Innovation Council (EIC) and SMEs Executive Agency.

Mariya Gabriel, EU commissioner for innovation, research, culture, education and youth said the prize for women innovators is “especially close to my heart” and added that she’s proud the prize has helped to “change the narrative about women in leadership and encourage more girls to pursue a career in STEM”.

The €50,000 Rising Innovators award was limited to women entrepreneurs aged 30 or under. The Keane sisters were the only Irish nominees in contention for the prize.

The Keane sisters founded Izzy Wheels, which creates fashionable wheelchair accessories. At Inspirefest 2017, design graduate Ailbhe detailed the thoughtful construction behind Izzy Wheels’ bespoke wheel covers, which are more than just a style statement.

Speaking at the summit, Ailbhe Keane said running a business is about solving real-life problems. “If you can solve real problems that enhance people’s lives then your work will become so much more enjoyable,” she said.

“All of the women that were recognised today, they’re doing work that is helping people and that’s so inspiring.”

Overall winners

A third of entrepreneurs nominated for this year’s finals were Irish and included Beats Medical CEO Ciara Clancy, Nova Leah CEO Anita Finnegan and SoapBox Labs founder Patricia Scanlan.

However, it was Merel Boers from the Netherlands, Mathilde Jakobsen from Denmark and Daphne Haim Langford from Israel who took home the top prize at the awards.

Boers is the co-founder and CEO of Nico-Lab, a company offering cutting-edge technology to help physicians improve emergency care.

Jakobsen is the co-founder and CEO of Fresh.Land, a digital platform that shortens and digitises the food supply chain, providing easy access to good quality food.

Haim Langford is the founder and CEO of Tarsier Pharma, a company developing disruptive medical solutions for the treatment and cure of autoimmune and inflammatory ocular diseases.

The winners were announced at the European Innovation Council Summit in Brussels this morning (25 November). Each of the three winners will take home €100,000 in cash.

EU commissioner Margrethe Vestager said the winners are using technologies to bring positive change to the world. “This shows how much innovation is the answer to our future’s most pressing challenges. It also sends a strong signal that we need many more women in the tech sector.”

With additional reporting by Blathnaid O’Dea

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