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15 April 2021 – Award-winning social enterprise Ideabatic develops innovations that help to improve people's lives in underserved communities. Their Founder and CEO Kitty Liao joined our Innovators for change Accelerator last year. In this interview, she shares her journey building an impact-driven start-up and what is to come for Ideabatic in 2021.

Tell us about Ideabatic’s mission.

Our mission is to create smart innovations for important problems that'll help people, especially those that are often ignored. We also want to encourage scientists, engineers and other experts to work on these to make a positive impact. 

How did you come to do this work and why is it important to you?

I participated in the first ever humanitarian hackathon at CERN in 2014, to look at the most urgent problems that needed solving. I was shocked by the fact that two to three million children die each year of a vaccine-preventable disease according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Today, nearly 20 million children still lack basic vaccinations. One reason for this predicament is that vaccines can become damaged while in transit due to the fluctuations in temperature they can be exposed to during the last few miles of their journey. I was determined to solve this problem. So, I came up with SMILE.

SMILE is a smart last-mile vaccine cooling system. It helps to preserve vaccines so that they remain effective in the last few miles of delivery and arrive safely. With SMILE, we aim to eliminate vaccine spoilage and reach out to millions who are currently unvaccinated.

What are some of the obstacles you have faced growing the business and how did you overcome them?

At every stage we'd need funding to continue our development. We had to search for the right grants to apply to. 

There are always problems to solve in business, so our approach is getting advice from various people and making decisions by taking into account different factors. The common approach I'd say to unblock obstacles is effort. We think, reflect and keep trying. 

What opportunities did CISL’s Accelerator open for you?

It is always great to meet like-minded people tackling important challenges. We were inspired by fellow cohorts and were connected with great mentors who help with the development. We also had the opportunity to deliver a masterclass on how SMILE helps with sustainability.  

What’s next for Ideabatic?

SMILE has been iterated, tested and field proven. We would like to bring SMILE to the field to start saving lives and spoilage. This involves funding for tooling (making the moulds). We are speaking to partners who will deploy SMILE to achieve their mission. 

Which innovation in the industry has inspired you recently?

The speed of the development of the COVID-19 vaccines and the efficacy of many of them are incredible. It is amazing how powerful collective effort can be when we all join the force. This resonates with our mission encouraging people to work on something that'll make positive changes.

To find out more about how we can help your organisation scale up in a way that positively impacts society and the environment, head here.

About the author

Kitty Liao

Kitty Liao is Founder and CEO of Ideabatic, an award-winning social enterprise that develops innovations to improve people's lives in underserved communities. An entrepreneur, engineer, innovator and public speaker, Kitty has over ten years of experience in low-temperature and multi-disciplinary systems, user-centred design, vaccine cold-chain in hard-to-reach and remote areas, design for low-resource settings, prototyping and project management.


Guest articles on the blog do not necessarily represent the views of, or endorsement by, the Institute or the wider University of Cambridge.


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