RAU student wins £50,000 Women in Innovation prize

Royal Agricultural University (RAU) PhD student Kate Drury has won a Women in Innovation award for creating sustainable rope made from British wool.

The annual award, which is run by Innovate UK and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), coincided with this year’s International Women’s Day and saw 50 winners awarded out of a pool of more than 900 applicants.

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Ms Drury, who is completing her PhD in wool, will take home a £50,000 grant and one-to-one coaching to help get her business off the ground.

She said: “I am really humbled to have been chosen as one of the winners of this award, and for my work to have been recognised in this way. It is a huge privilege to be named in this group of amazing British women.

“I come from a family of fourth-generation sheep famers, so I guess it makes sense that I am now doing my PhD in wool.

“My father was involved with British Wool when I was growing up and I was a regional representative for British Wool for six years.”

Kate Drury

Kate Drury © Royal Agricultural University

Setting up a company – Sustainable Rope – 18 months ago, Ms Drury’s rope uses traceable wool from British farms, which she buys through the British Wool Auction.

The end product is made entirely from wool, and is biodegradable and renewable, making it significantly more environmentally friendly compared with traditional plastic ropes, which contribute to microplastic pollution.

Ms Drury said: “Even though my company is less than two years old, I am already getting enquiries from all over the world, and this recognition will really help me to commercialise that research, conduct more trials and enable my business to grow.”

The rope is currently being trialled to grow seaweed, which can soak up carbon and has multiple uses, from fertiliser to foodstuff.

It is also being used in conservation works and on a permaculture farm.

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