Linguistics and English Language

Innovation awards celebrate entrepreneurs

Students, staff and recent graduates have been recognised in the University’s innovation awards

Innovation awards celebrate entrepreneurs

Human-like skin for robots, bespoke synthetic voices for people who lose theirs through illness, and re-usable sanitary products were among the prize-winning inventions celebrated at the Inspire Launch Grow awards.

The annual competition for entrepreneurial students, staff and alumni was hosted by Edinburgh Innovations, the University’s commercialisation service, in the Playfair Library.

Awards of up to £5,000 were presented across five categories, judged by entrepreneurs and business advisers. Finalists had previously pitched their businesses and social enterprises to the judges.

Skin for robots

Product Design masters student, Laura Garcia Caberol, who also studied the Ethics of AI course in PPLS, and School of Engineering PhD student Zakareya Hussein won the Emerging Innovation Award for Students for their company Touchlab.


They are developing an electronic skin that can be wrapped around any robot to give it a human-like sense of touch, including pain when poked with sharp objects.

It’s a big boost of confidence. We’re really happy to know that people appreciate what we’re doing.

Laura Carcia CaberolEmerging Innovation Award for Students winner

Replacement voices

The project Speak:Unique won the Emerging Innovation Award for Staff. 


Speak:Unique is a collaboration between CSTR (a collaboration between Informatics and Linguistics and English Language at Edinburgh), the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic, and the Euan MacDonald Centre for Motor Neurone Disease.

Their technology creates personalised synthetic replica voices for people with conditions such as motor neurone disease. From a recording of just 30 minutes of a patient talking, the system is able to turn any text into speech in the person’s own voice, enabling them to have an authentic-sounding voice long after they lose the ability to vocalise themselves.

The commercial and clinical impact of speech synthesis technology

Commercialisation service

All of the winners in Inspire Launch Grow 2019 are clients of Edinburgh Innovations, which provides a range of free services to students, staff and recent graduates to commercialise their ideas or research discoveries.

Edinburgh Innovations

The awards ceremony was attended by more than 100 guests from the across the University and beyond, including members of the investment community who regularly support start-ups and spin-outs launched by students and staff.

The finalists have come up with some amazing ideas and shown the necessary enterprising spirit and energy to take them forward as solid business propositions. It’s always an honour to support our staff and student entrepreneurs.

Dr George BaxterCEO, Edinburgh Innovations