By Rachael Yeung @RachaelYeung21
Based in London, Isabel Van De Keere is the CEO and Founder of Immersive Rehab, a VR health tech start-up that focuses on the creation and development of interactive rehab environments & games in Virtual Reality that will improve the effectiveness of physical rehabilitation.
With a background in Electro-Mechanical Engineering and a former Biomedical Engineering Scientist, Isabel is passionate about healthcare technologies, digital health, immersive technologies (VR/AR) and its applications in healthcare, using tech for good, social entrepreneurship, and promoting women in tech.
In September 2016, Isabel was one of 12 tech start ups who won a 12 week programme of mentoring and support through the Bethnal Green Ventures accelerator programme and received £15,000 of investment.
What is your company?
I am the Founder and CEO of the startup "Immersive Rehab Ltd". The aim is to create physical rehabilitation exercises in Virtual Reality that improve patient recovery, to make rehab fun and engaging, and to have a better outcome of rehab.
How has your career progressed from studying your biomedical science degree at university?
I have an MSc in Mechanical Engineering, which is a very broad and multidisciplinary area of engineering. This led me into pursuing a scientific career in Biomedical Engineering as a PhD and Postdoctoral researcher, thereby combining my two passions: engineering and healthcare/medicine. My career after leaving academia has always had a strong link with the foundations laid down during my academic studies. Science, Engineering, Innovation and Technology have always played a key part in my career decisions.
How did you come up with the idea of combining physical rehabilitation with VR?
Following a long physical rehab period I went through myself due to a work accident in 2010, I decided to create Immersive Rehab Ltd. The aim of my company is to create physical rehabilitation exercises in Virtual Reality that improves patient recovery, to make rehab fun and engaging, and to have a better outcome of rehab.
I am currently alone in the company, but collaborations are being set up with key players to make Immersive Rehab Ltd a success for the patients using the VR rehabilitation platform.
Why is #WomenInTech movement important to you?
The Women in tech movement is important from different angles. Firstly, it brings together women passionate about science and technology, secondly it gives women a stronger network to address issues around equal pay, gender inequality and gender bias, and thirdly it creates a tech community of women helping each other to achieve great things in tech together.
Have you found recruiting women for your team difficult?
I am still in the progress of recruiting people for my team. The overall hiring issue is not being able to provide a salary yet at the moment.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in? Have you faced any challenges being a female founder?
The gender bias versus women is still very much present. I was at a conference on VR recently having all male panels claiming that there are too few women working in VR, that while the room contained a substantial group of women in the field.
I see that you have won many awards and honours, what are your biggest achievements to date?
I think my biggest achievement is getting to the point where I am today as a founder and healthtech entrepreneur despite the many hurdles along the way, both from a personal health and professional perspective. I never stopped believing anything is possible.
What will be the key trends in the VR industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
VR is still changing every day and opportunities seem endless at the moment. I see VR playing a huge role in healthcare via e.g. VR rehabilitation programmes, VR pain management and VR surgical and medical training. VR/AR will also become a key tool in education.Through VR/AR, knowledge will become accessible to a larger group of people previously deprived of it due to their geographical location or background.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in VR?
Shaun Heller, Sherrie Robertson and Samantha Kingston.
"Stay true to yourself and what drives you in order to make a difference. Be passionate about what you do and engage with more experienced techies and learn from their experiences."
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