Inclusivity through innovation

Reading time: 3 minutes

This UK Disability Month, Bulletin looks at the startups and spinouts supported by Edinburgh Innovations, the University’s commercialisation service, that are helping to build a more inclusive world.

Edinburgh Innovations is fostering groundbreaking startups aimed at enhancing inclusivity and contributing to a more inclusive world through technology and research.

Photograph by Charlotte Stapley


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’s Centre for Speech Technology Research, led by Alice Smith and based at 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 which removes the need for travel to a clinic, which many users with mobility issues would find difficult.

Euan says: “We have been delighted to support this venture. To be able to formally launch is very exciting, as people with MND, amongst others, will be able to bank their voices and receive the best quality synthesised voice in return. I know the benefits first-hand as someone who uses my personalised voice through my eye gaze device every day.”

About SpeakUnique


The School of Engineering startup Bioliberty is harnessing robotics technology to assist and rehabilitate people with reduced hand strength, a condition which affects more than 2.5 million people in the UK.

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 from hand weakness. By harnessing the very latest technological advancements, Bioliberty is helping to shape a future which empowers sufferers to live independently for longer.

About Bioliberty 


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 was inspired to set up the business after her own experience as a child with a complex healthcare condition. She has created a series where each book follows a character with a different condition from diagnosis to recovery.

Lizzie says: “Thanks to Edinburgh Innovations I have a network of friends and colleagues who are all in the same startup boat and it is reassuring to know I am not in it alone.”

Edinburgh Innovations startup success stories | Gradatim 

Founder Lizzie Smith


eMoodie was set up by Claire Ann Banga when she was carrying out PhD research in the Usher Institute. She 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.

About eMoodie 

eMoodie founder Claire Ann Banga

Find out more

Edinburgh Innovations