Oxford Brookes student wins investment for app tackling accessibility in cities

Monday, 18 June 2018

Enterprise stars winner Sophia Bannert

A postgraduate student from the School of Architecture at Oxford Brookes has won investment after competing in University Alliance’s national Enterprise Stars competition.

Last week (14 June) University Alliance ran their annual Alliance-wide showcase and a competition to attract investment for student start-ups.

Enterprise Stars 2018 is a programme with student experience at its heart and aims to find the enterprise stars of tomorrow.

The one-day enterprise festival was hosted by Salford University at MediaCityUK culminating in the opportunity for students to win investment and business advice from a panel of investors.

Entrants from 13 universities pitched their ideas and Sophia Bannert, studying MArchD Applied Design in Architecture at Oxford Brookes, was one of three successful winners.

She scooped £1,000 for her Bee-Able app which aims to transform cities into places of equality and inclusivity, whether people are wheelchair users, visually impaired, parents with pushchairs or just carrying heavy suitcases. Sophia is drawing on her studies to devise a tool to tackle the physical and social barriers in cities for people with disabilities or access needs.

Bee-Able is currently seeking seed funding - so I am delighted to have won this investment from Enterprise Stars, which will help to propel Bee-Able into the pilot stage, and start to tackle inaccessible cities.

Sophia Bannert, MArchD Applied Design in Architecture, Oxford Brookes University

She has developed a prototype map-based app which allows users to rate and review their city’s accessibility. It also allows them to find out which are the most accessible businesses and book ahead, with confidence, through the use of ‘scores’ on the doors of top-rated places and venues. For those businesses with low scores, Bee-Able will also offer bespoke architectural, planning and project management apps to address any accessibility issues highlighted by app users.

Last year Sophia’s project won a design award from the Royal Society of Arts (RSA).

Commenting on her win, Sophia said: “Over the past year I have been continuing to develop Bee-Able, with the support and guidance of some fantastic mentors including the Enterprise Support team at Oxford Brookes, from whom I was very grateful to receive an Enterprise Support Award in March. 

“Bee-Able is currently seeking seed funding - so I am delighted to have won this investment from Enterprise Stars, which will help to propel Bee-Able into the pilot stage, and start to tackle inaccessible cities.”

Investors at the event included Tim Foster MBE, social entrepreneur and Olympic gold medallist, who works as a professional business coach mentor to major companies as well as mentoring students at Oxford Brookes University.

More information about Enterprise Stars 2018 can be found on University Alliance’s website.

Visit the School of Architecture’s website to find out about available undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

Image credit: University of Salford, Sophia Bannert (second from left) and Tim Foster, MBE (first on the right)