Fiona Bennington, Catalyst’s Head of Entrepreneurship and Growth, has been recognised for her contributions to the local community during the pandemic by being named as the winner of the WISE Responsive Hero Award at the COVID Unsung Heroes Awards 2022.
The COVID Unsung Heroes Awards celebrate Women in STEM and bring recognition to those who are making a positive difference through STEM. The WISE Responsive Hero Award celebrates a STEM hero whose work during the pandemic was exceptional.
An experienced product designer and entrepreneur, Fiona received the accolade for her work as the Director of HeroShield, a cross-border consortium of companies formed in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic to create and distribute Personal Protective Equipment to frontline workers during the first wave of the pandemic.
Speaking about her award, Fiona said: “It was a truly humbling experience to meet with the other women who were finalists for this award. Princess Anne spoke to us about how we should not hide our achievements but share with others what Women in STEM have been able to do to support the national and international pandemic efforts, as this could help to inspire women and girls everywhere.”
She added: “As an engineer, I wasn’t best placed to create vaccines, or medicines, but I did have skills to help in a different way and was able to design and pull together a not-for-profit consortium from all over the north and south of Ireland to create and distribute PPE locally. This was not by any means a solo effort, many, many people helped to save lives in this way, but I am glad to have played a part in making it happen. If there is a takeaway from this whole experience it is that ordinary people have the power to make a difference.”
The HeroShield team freely shared the approved and compliant designs of their product with Engineers without Borders to allow the shield to be manufactured in third world countries where the resources were not in place to buy from international suppliers. They also won the NHS contract for HeroShield which they handed over to Denroy and Crossen Engineering, two partners who offered a lot of staff time and resources to the project.
Fiona is responsible for Catalyst’s entrepreneurship and growth programmes that focus on supporting start-ups and early-stage businesses, including Generation Innovation, CoFounders, INVENT and Springboard.
Claire McCafferty, Innovation Broker from Catalyst said: “The team at Catalyst are very proud of Fiona’s achievement, and we’re delighted that her dedication and innovative work supporting NHS staff and the local community during the pandemic has been recognised with this award. This WISE competition allowed us to acknowledge the female engineering skills making a different to our everyday challenges.”