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Press release

  • 22 September 2004
  • Student Martina STEPs up to competition final

    Enterprising Sussex student Martina Rieder has reached the national final of a major business competition with her design for a medical appliance that's set to benefit thousands of patients.

    Now a final-year biochemistry and management studies undergraduate, Martina, 24, won the London and South East regional heat of the STEP Most Enterprising Student of the Year competition and now joins eight other regional winners, whittled down from 1,400 entries, for the final in London on October 6.

    To qualify, Martina completed an eight-week placement, sponsored in part by Crawley Borough Council, with Welland Medical, a Crawley-based medical appliance company that makes products used by people who have undergone bowel surgery.

    Martina interviewed patients in hospital and carried out chemistry research to enable her to design a more durable and comfortable colostomy flange. Flanges are used to attach waste bags to the skin surrounding a stoma (a surgically created opening in the body). Welland is now planning to patent the product. In another project, Martina was able to identify and resolve problems in the production process, saving Welland thousands of pounds.

    Originally from Munich, Germany, Martina came to the University of Sussex so that she could study her subjects in English. She is thrilled but surprised to be through to the final. "I loved working on the projects - I got my own lab and computer at Welland and I really enjoyed working with the patients. There were so many incredible projects, I never thought I'd get to the final."

    Helen Raper, personnel manager for Welland, says: "Martina was responsible for making significant cost savings for the company and improving the quality of life for our customers. She excelled herself and we are extremely grateful for her efforts and are very proud of her."

    The competition draws from students who sign up for STEP (Shell Technology Enterprise Programme). Originally a community investment scheme launched by oil giant Shell, STEP now offers capable students study-related summer work placements with small businesses (called small and medium-sized businesses, or SMEs) nationwide. Students gain valuable work experience and SMEs get extra help with research and development projects.

    Patsie Sutcliffe, Sussex Manager for STEP, has placed more than 500 students in the past 13 years. She is based at the Sussex Innovation Centre at the University of Sussex, which guides and supports start-up businesses in the region. Patsie says: "It is an honour to be involved in watching my STEP students grow in stature and confidence. It gives them a huge advantage and prepares them well when applying for jobs. As for Martina, I think she achieved amazing results and we all wish her good luck on 6 October in her final stage of the STEP competition. Watch this space!"



    Notes for editors 

    The STEP Most Enterprising Student final is on Wednesday October 6 at Whitehall Place in London. For further information, call STEP on 0870 036 5450 or visit

    To find out more about Sussex Innovation Centre, visit

    University of Sussex contact: Call Press Officer Maggie Clune on 01273 678209 or email at for further information or photograph.


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