UNITED KINGDOM: “It’s fantastic and has really put us on the map.”
The reaction of Jo Redmile after winning an Innovate UK Women in Innovation award and £50,000 for her game-changing idea.
The 34-year-old is among 50 leading women entrepreneurs – including five from the South West – receiving recognition for developing novel solutions to major social, environmental and economic challenges.
In Jo’s case it’s for creating TurboGaming, a revolutionary bicycle-games-controller which converts PlayStation and Xbox racing games into pedal-powered fitness opportunities.
Working closely with Aetha Design in Poole, the product is now approaching the beta testing phase.
Jo, who grew up in Zimbabwe and represented the country in rowing, squash and sailing by the age of 18, moved to the UK in 2011.
She was immediately struck by the difference in the availability – and accessibility – of sport.
But it was the experiences of her Mum, Caroline, during lockdown that acted as the real catalyst for creating TurboGaming.
Jo said: “She was looking after my nephews who, like many young people, were spending a lot of time on their screens.
“We were just chatting over a cup of tea and came up with the idea of combining screen time with actual exercise.”
Jo, who lives in Poole, enrolled the help of her husband, Brian, a software developer, to create a basic bike for their son Christian, now seven, to test.
After incorporating TurboGaming as a limited company in 2021 the couple turned to Aetha Design to build a more robust prototype.
They were helped by the fact that Michael O’Driscoll, the Product Designer working on the project, is himself a keen gamer and cyclist.
Jo said: “Using a smart bicycle-games-controller could unlock a whole new genre of athletic esports.
“The harder you pedal, the faster your car will go in the game.
“You steer by rotating the handlebars and there are buttons on the grips to break, shoot and jump.
“The product comes in both child and adult sizes and there are over a 100 potentially compatible games.
“They include Forza Horizon, Wreckfest, Need for Speed, Hot Wheels, Crash Team Racing, Disney Cars and many, many more.
“I’m passionate about changing our culture’s relationship with gaming.
“It doesn’t have to be ‘the enemy’ that drives a wedge through happy families.
“With the right controller, gaming can be an entirely guilt-free activity offering both mental stimulation and physical challenge.”
Jo also sees TurboGaming as something that will particularly serve the neurodivergent community of which she is a part.
She said: “Exercise boosts mood, improves sleep quality, reduces the symptoms of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor which primes the brain for learning.
“Youngsters with ADHD reap disproportionate benefits from accessible exercise.”
Emily Nott, Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Programmes at Innovate UK, said, “Each year I am blown away by the brilliant ideas and talent we uncover through our Women in Innovation programme.
“Despite these challenging economic times, this year’s winners have shown great leadership, passion and resilience in driving their innovations forward.”
Jo said the £50,000 grant would be used to help develop an app as well as finalise the bike prototype phase.
Innovate UK will also provide one-to-one business coaching and networking, role modelling and training opportunities.
Jo said: “Winning this Innovate UK Award has been surprisingly validating.
“It’s given me the confidence to open up about my neurodivergent mind, my unique life experiences and my unapologetic ambition.
“I hope my story proves the fact that game-changing ideas really can come from anywhere.”