Italian student who has designed a violin made from silk has been crowned London’s most innovative international student

Luca Alessandrini, a post graduate from Imperial College London, beat hundreds of other entries from 49 different countries and 17 universities, with his violin which is made from a mixture of spider silk and resin. 

When the violin is played, the spider silk vibrates the instrument’s casing, emitting a sound which can be customised by tweaking the exact blend of the material.  The combination of silk and resin produces a unique tone which can be altered by blending different quantities of the raw materials.

Luca, who won the £10,000 top prize in The Mayor of London’s International Student Innovation Award 2016, says the new material could allow the acoustics of instruments and sound equipment to be customised with a degree of control that is difficult to obtain with other modern materials such as carbon fibre. Luca, originally from Urbino, Italy, said: “Studying in London has been one of the best experiences in my life and this incredible initiative will allow me to bring my project closer to reality. 

“I have spent two years working full time with 38 people from 14 different countries and I couldn’t imagine a more supportive and stimulating environment than this city.”

Second place, in the initiative devised by London & Partners, the Mayor’s official promotional company, went to Chinese students Kitty Liao and Mei Ran Abellona who have developed a vaccine delivery system which could potentially help to save lives around the world.

The pair say that millions of dollars are wasted on vaccines which perish during the last mile of their journey. Their design has a unique recyclable, and temperature controlled system, which means vaccines can be kept cool over an indefinite period of time, so that they are no longer compromised or wasted when they reach their destination.

Third place went to German student Elena Dieckmann, who has recycled waste chicken feathers and made them into building materials, such as water repellent paint, and a range of consumer goods including tooth brushes.

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, said: “The incredible range of talent on show in these awards celebrates the best of the capital and clearly demonstrates that London is open to talent and ideas from across the globe. We need to do all we can to ensure that London remains the best and most welcoming destination for international students.”

Lord Karan Bilimoria of Chelsea, a cross-bench peer and President of the UK Council for International Student Affairs, added: “I can see the huge potential for each of the entries on the shortlist to disrupt commercial industries or save time and money for consumers. It is fantastic that London can help these international students from across the world to showcase their ideas in this way.

“All of the entries were very interesting and innovative, but the world loves high-tech, configurable manufacturing. It is a world-changing area of industry, providing us with innovative ways of building everything from homes to aircraft and even food and drink. “Luca has applied a highly advanced knowledge of acoustics and composite materials to music-making, and his idea will inspire other people to break down the barriers of what innovation can achieve.”

The International Student Innovation Awards 2016 was set up to highlight the work of the city’s international students and also to provide some financial help to assist students in taking their innovation to the next stage of development. It was devised by London & Partners, the Mayor’s official promotional company and is also supported by the UK Government’s Education is GREAT campaign and the British Council, Cambridge English, IDP Education and The PIE.

Ideas and innovations submitted were evaluated by a prestigious panel of judges including Eliot Forster, Executive Chair of MedCity and CEO of Immunocore, Eileen Burbidge, Partner at London venture capital firm Passion Capital and Chair of Tech City UK and Lord Bilimoria, who is also Founder and Chairman of Cobra Beer and the winner was announced last night (Wednesday) during an event at Central Saint Martins, Granary Square.

Dr Eliot Forster said: “Science has no borders; it is truly international and we have long attracted the best and brightest with a passion for forward-thinking science that is second to none. I am passionate that our world-leading cluster will continue to grow and thrive and our international students are key to this. I was extremely impressed by all the submissions and I hope that they will continue to develop their ideas to solve society’s health problems.

Eileen Burbidge said: “London’s world-leading universities are bursting with some of the brightest minds who are developing businesses which will revolutionise our lives. Students coming to London from all over the world bring fresh ideas and thinking, and their talent should be nurtured and encouraged as they seek to build the next generation of global companies.”

London welcomes more international students than any other city in the world who come to study at the city’s world class universities. With over 100,000 international students from over 200 different nations, London is an open and supportive city for those looking to make the capital their home.

Top 15


1)    Luca Alessandrini


Violin made from spiders silk

2)    Mei Ran Abellona and Kitty Liao


Last mile vaccine delivery system

3)    Elena Dieckmann


Using waste feathers to make household goods like tooth brushes

4)    Pae Natwilai


An app that allows you to control drones like waving a magic wand

5)    Malav Sanghavi


A smart amputee socket which can be adjusted via an app to suit the individual’s needs

6)    Eyenimi Ndiomu


An app that detects whether a new born baby is suffering from asphyxia

7)    Ehab Sayed


Using waste material to build houses which can then easily be redesigned

8)    Yin Fan Huen


A device which stops the tremors in Parkinsons sufferers

9)    Simon Weill and Nathan Cavaglione


A shoe that uses street mapping to enable blind and partially sighted people to navigate busy city streets.

10) Mustafa Khanwala


An app that stops queuing in shops allowing you to immediately pay for goods and services

11) Olivia Hildebrand


A London bus stop designed to assist blind people and partially sighted.

12) Philip Kallberg


An app where you go to a chefs home to experience their cooking

13)  Xinyang Tan


A device which strengthens the limbs of children with muscular problems

=13) Claire Berdugo


An app that allows you to quickly sell second hand clothes from your wardrobe

=13)  Félicie Eymard


A piece of clothing that transforms in to five garments