Zijing Li’s self-healing concrete invention wins UKRI award as Mimicrete takes off

Zijing (Liz) Li was an early EnterpriseTECH student we selected her to join EnterpriseTECH STAR in 2020― with her first vision for her company which she brought to life with the programmes’ training and mentoring. Since then, she formally co-founded the advanced materials science startup Mimicrete in 2021 and has been named one of the UK’s leading women entrepreneurs by UK Research and Innovation. 

Liz’s research in biomimetic materials and vascular self-healing concrete forms the core technology of Mimicrete, which has the aim of developing sustainable and resilient construction materials. Her PhD was at the Geotechnical and Environmental Research Group in the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge.

Mimicrete’s proprietary self-healing concrete technology has the potential to transform the construction industry by reducing the need for over-engineering, repair or replacement, while extending the lifespan of infrastructure and reducing costs and carbon emissions. The material is designed to heal concrete cracks as soon as they appear, mitigating further cracking and subsequent structural issues. Self-monitoring systems for concrete such as this also have the potential to diagnose degradation and inform engineers about the need for remote operations and long-term maintenance.

Leveraging work conducted within the University of Cambridge’s Geotechnical and Environmental Research Group, Mimicrete’s three female founders, including Liz, along with deep-tech venture builder Cambridge Future Tech, developed a unique approach to disrupt the £800bn global concrete market, which accounts for up to 8% of annual carbon emissions.

With funding from the prestigious Innovate UK smart grant scheme and backing from US-based venture investors, Mimicrete is well-positioned to deliver against its near-term R&D and commercialisation plans. The company has also won a £450k Innovate UK Smart Grant and unveiled its first commercial pilot with UK Partners.

Liz’s achievements have been recognised by the UK’s Women in Innovation Awards, with Mimicrete winning a £50,000 grant and a bespoke package of mentoring, coaching, and business support to develop their projects. The company’s innovative self-healing concrete technology has the potential to revolutionise the construction industry and significantly reduce its environmental impact.

“It has been a fascinating journey with the EnterpriseTECH Programme, which reshaped my horizon and had a great impact in my life!” – Dr Zijing Li.

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