Corien Staels and Jon Cooper
Corien Staels and Jon Cooper

Wheelchair cushion entrepreneur wins Glasgow University prize

Corien Staels has been awarded the Entrepreneur of the Year Prize at the Glasgow University Knowledge Exchange and Engagement Conference. This recognises her continuing role as an entrepreneurial success story for the university as well as the UK as a whole.

Staels has had close links with the institution since completing her MSc there in International Business and Entrepreneurship in 2016. Since graduating, Glasgow University has been a continuing source of encouragement and support as her company, Staels Design LTD, has grown from strength to strength.

It was during her masters degree that Corien was inspired to launch her innovative healthcare product, the wheelAIR cooling backrest cushion for wheelchairs.

It is little known that overheating is a problem for the majority of wheelchair users which not only impacts their daily lives, but can lead to more serious health ailments.

The wheelAIR has been carefully designed to solve this problem. Using inbuilt fan technology, it not only cools the back, but reduces core temperature by taking away excess heat and moisture. This allows for instant comfort and better temperature control. The cushion also offers essential extra support through a unique blend of carefully selected foams.

Corien commented, “It is hugely gratifying to be awarded this prize for Entrepreneurship for the wheelAIR. It is important to highlight how universities are impacting people in real and tangible ways. My development of the wheelAIR was undeniably accelerated because of my education at Glasgow University. Now, the wheelAIR is helping people in wheelchairs all over the world stay cooler and become more mobile. Together we are contributing to global progress.”

The Knowledge Exchange and Engagement conference showcased the University’s ambitions for knowledge exchange, engagement and innovation between them and the governmental, business, public and third sectors. They ultimately strive to deliver world changing impact from their research, both locally and globally. The wheelAIR innovation is an excellent example of this in action.

Paul Fetti, Senior Lecturer in International Business and Entrepreneurship and past tutor for Staels says, ‘I was very proud to introduce Corien as our Entrepreneur of the year last week.

“I cannot think of anyone I have met since joining the University in August 2015 that represents the true spirit of entrepreneurship than Corien. She not only wants to run a successful company, but she genuinely wants to helps people with her innovative WheelAir product.”

Staels has already proved an excellent ambassador for engagement and innovation for the University when she won the Design and Creativity award for the wheelAIR at the Converge Challenge in September. Not only this, Staels won £100K in Scottish Edge in June and has recently closed a £100K seed round of investment.