Natalie's award winning business idea

Natalie Weir, PhD researcher and entrepreneur, developed her award-winning business idea, Playivity, whilst studying and achieved success on the Ingenuity Programme and through the University’s Three Minute Thesis competition.

Natalie's idea

As a mum with young children, Natalie was interested in activity levels amongst children. This led her to pursue a PhD in Sport and Exercise Science, exploring the relationship between between physical activity and physical literacy in 3-5year olds to inform intervention development.

“I am a mum of a 3 year and a 5-year-old and post Covid-19 I was curious about the amount of movement my children were getting whilst in education. Then I was astonished at the lack of research and solutions to understand and respond to the lack of physical activity levels in young people.  So, in 2023 I left a job on the senior management team of a National governing body of sport to pursue a PhD at the University of Derby, exploring the relationship between physical activity and physical literacy in the early years and created a health impact start-up called Playivity.”

Natalie’s business idea is a simple wearable product that measures physical activity levels and pairs with ‘play’ posts that can emit light, sound and text once ‘bopped’ with to support movement play.  Playivity aims to use a data led approach to support the better understanding of sedentary and moderate to vigorous activity levels whilst enabling easy creation of fun physically active and cross curricular games - reframing fitness to fun.

If anyone is curious about Natalie’s PhD research or thinks they could be a part of Playivity’s mission, Natalie would love to hear from you:

A person making a speech at a conference

My plans for the future are to continue to represent and position the University of Derby as knowledge leaders in early childhood physical development as well as champion the need for innovative solutions to better respond to the issue of childhood inactivity.

Natalie Weir
PhD researcher

Success at the Ingenuity Programme 

The Ingenuity Programme is run through the University of Nottingham to bring together students, graduates and members of the local community to develop start-ups with meaningful and significant impact. Participants can benefit from one-on-one support from specialist mentors to develop their ideas into a business plan and be in with a chance to receive investment and support.

This year, 11 University of Derby students joined the programme, including Natalie who pitched her idea Playivity in the category of Improving people's health.

With the support of the Entrepreneurs in residence programme, the Try It Fund and Be the Boss, Natalie placed second in the health category and won the Caring Professions in Enterprise prize and £1500 in funding for her business idea. 

She found that the Ingenuity Programme gave her valuable support to develop her business idea and drive her motivation. 

“It is one thing having a business idea, but it is another to articulate it and bring people along with your vision. Becoming a finalist in the Ingenuity Programme with Playivity has been both energising and motivational for me. It catapulted my strategic thinking, enabled me to nail down my impact aims, work on various aspects of business development and experience 'pitching', all whilst receiving valuable feedback.” 

Winning the Three Minute Thesis competition 

The Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition celebrates the discoveries made by Postgraduate research students and offers an opportunity for them to showcase their research.

Natalie won the 3MT presentation for the College of Science and Engineering and went on to win the University of Derby 3MT winners award and people’s choice award with her work titled: ‘Nurturing movement and physical literacy in the early years’.

Natalie will now represent the University at the regional 3MT and the national 3MT in September. Natalie plans to continue representing the University as a leader in early childhood physical development. The next steps for Playivity involve product development, working on an innovation and development project with the University and fundraising through a combination of grant funding and community partnerships. 

A person making a speech at a conference
Two people smiling and holding a certificate

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