Women In Innovation Success Stories: Nicola Filzmoser, Happyr Health, East of England
Nicola Filzmoser’s experience of suffering from chronic pain from the age of four was central to her developing ‘Happyr Health’, a digital pain management tool for teens and young adults.
When Nicola joined Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation programme in March 2021, the company was at the Minimal Viable Product (MVP) stage. After feedback from teenagers, parents, young adults and clinicians, they developed a prototype for a migraine self-care app, which was already integrated with the Migraine Association of Ireland.
A key milestone for the company was to give teenagers, for the first time, a novel way to deal with their chronic pain. Nicola said: “We developed the first mobile version for our migraine self-care app and it was essential to have a product that met teenagers’ needs (mobile-first, interactive, story-based).”
The company developed a deep-learning artificial intelligence algorithm for the app that works towards just-in-time, preventive treatments that are relevant for individual needs. Happyr Health also had to prove it was building a clinically viable product and is currently conducting a study with Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust to validate the app. “It is always our goal to follow the latest gold standards in care and conducting this first pilot study is essential for us to start gathering clinical data and proof, “ said Nicola.
The Happyr App V1 is now on iOS and Android, and the company has established national and international partnerships with leading Children’s Hospitals (e.g., Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust), pain clinics, individual researchers and Patient Advocates. Nicola said: “We have also hired three experts in the fields of software engineering, gamification, and art, to develop our app and transform it into an engaging and exciting experience for users, and raised £85k through grants and awards.”
Aims for the future
In the next year, the company will conduct a follow-up study to test the health and economic benefits of the app, setting up a clinical steering group at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. Nicola said: “Within five years, Happyr Health will be established as a go-to resource for self-care solutions, not only for chronic pain but for other physical and mental health challenges suffered by teenagers and young adults. The App’s tools will be not only used by families but will also enable clinicians in pain clinics and hospitals, to better care for their patients.”
Nicola says she has grown in confidence as a result of the Women in Innovation programme, constantly learning and meeting challenges. “Innovation means to question the status quo and that’s not an easy path to walk. I’ve been supported on this path by so many wonderful women from the programme, by my team members and by Innovate UK EDGE’s Innovation and Growth Specialists; all have helped me grow in confidence,” said Nicola.
She added: “I have learned to be kind to myself and to forgive myself for things I didn’t do as expected, and through this I’ve learned to be a compassionate team leader.”
Not being taken seriously has been one of Nicola’s challenges. In her own words, : “Being one of the younger members in most meetings or entrepreneurial communities, I have met many people who did not take me seriously. They prefer to talk to my male co-founder.”
She continues: “The world of entrepreneurship is still dominated by men. A microscopic part of any Venture Capital funding goes to female-only teams and only a slightly bigger one goes to mixed teams, which strongly contradict the fact that diversity leads to better business results.”
According to Nicola, the support provided by her Innovation and Growth Specialist was invaluable. “Each session with Giulia Sirigu was tailored to my most pressing needs and she actively reached out with opportunities that might support me. Giulia sought out resources and shared contacts to help me grow my network,” said Nicola.
Nicola’s advice for potential award winners is: “Be present and actively engage with the other award winners and the Innovation and Growth Specialists. Innovation only comes through collaboration.”
Women in Innovation
Innovate UK’s Women In Innovation programme consists of funding competitions and events that enables brilliant women to fully achieve their visions and change the world, while championing and celebrating gender diversity throughout UK innovation.