ExpHand’s founder Kate Allan was recently offered the incredible opportunity to be invited to Iceland, as a representative of British innovation and entrepreneurship. After seeing us on Steph’s Packed Lunch last year, the British Embassy got in contact with us and set up the trip. Here’s what Kate got up to, and what we learned.
An Invitation to Össur
Arranged specifically for us was a visit to the Össur headquarters. Össur is a large company which makes several ranges of prosthetics and orthotic braces, based in Iceland but with a presence all around the world.
Kate was given a tour of Össur’s headquarters by three members of their product development team. She even got to meet the CEO Sveinn Solvason, who took time out of his day just to meet us and see the ExpHand in person. The Össur team were really impressed with our prosthetic, and loved the direction we’re headed in. We’re all allied in getting better prosthetics to those who need them, after all!
We learned our fair share while we were with Össur, too. As well as being shown many different prosthetics and orthotic braces, Kate got a preview of the Össur company timeline and new technologies, like 3D printed prosthetic liners. This really helped remind us that ExpHand is part of a whole new wave of new prosthetic innovations, which we’re delighted to be contributing towards.
While she was there, Kate also spotted Shunsuke Itani, who is an ambassador for Össur prosthetics. Seeing a Japanese paralympian who happened to be visiting Össur at the same time as us was certainly a welcome surprise!
Home Away from Home
After this all-too-brief visit to Össur, there was still plenty of time in the day filled with things to do. Travelling in a car proudly flying the British flag, Kate headed to lunch with Dr Bryony Mathew, the British Ambassador who had invited us to Iceland in the first place.
While we were there we met up with Anna Watkins, another UK Young Innovator who is working on making leather-like materials from seaweed. Together we talked to some of Iceland’s local businesses about our experience of being entrepreneurs and innovators in the UK, and the support we’ve had from our schools, university and our experience with Innovate UK.
Talking to the Next Generation
In what was left of the afternoon, we visited a local secondary school to speak about the ExpHand project, as well as the rewards and challenges of entrepreneurship. Many of the children we spoke to were eager to hear about how an idea can lead to a career, and some were very excited to share their own ideas with us. It was incredibly inspiring to meet the next generation of innovators!
Finally, Kate was treated to dinner with some local university students at the British Ambassador’s residence. Again she was invited to speak about ExpHand, which was a special interest for students looking to start their own projects. Hearing that ExpHand started as a dissertation definitely piqued the interest of those who were coming up to their own final year! This led to some intensely interesting discussions about further education and careers in the UK, and before we knew it the day was already over.
It was an honour to be invited to represent the UK abroad, and to be treated to such a warm and inclusive welcome to Iceland. Kate was of course excited to tour the Össur head offices and meet the British Ambassador to Iceland, but it’s hard to pick out any single highlight of the trip - the opportunity to talk to so many people who were optimistic about the future of prosthetics and innovation was incredibly refreshing and inspiring. If you ever get a chance like this one, we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.
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