Meet Madina Mukhammedova: successful woman inventor, entrepreneur, and a scientist

A perfect role model for women and girls in science.

February 10, 2023
Photo: UNDP Uzbekistan

Written by: Bekhzod Umarov, Adam Rogers

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has said the best way to solve humanity’s many challenges is to unleash the world’s enormous untapped talent – “starting with filling classrooms, laboratories, and boardrooms with women scientists.”

Madina Mukhammedova, who grew up in a small family in Bukhara, Uzbekistan, is one of the women who answered the Secretary-General’s call.  She became one of the 40 winners of a nationwide competition called “Startup Initiatives” that UNDP organized in 2021 in cooperation with the Foundation "Yoshlar kelajagimiz." Her entry was so successful, in fact, that she filed for and received a patent on her invention from the Intellectual Property Agency and is now on her way to running a successful business while solving a critical health challenge that many people face – both in Uzbekistan and around the world.

Photo: from Madina's personal archive

Her invention, Airy Insole, aims to prevent diabetic foot disease by using specially designed orthopedic insoles that can help prevent chronic pain, gangrene, amputation and/or disability of the foot.  According to her research, there are currently 140,794 people suffering from similar diseases in Uzbekistan, of whom 50 percent require orthopedical insoles. Madina and her team accurately calculated a cost-benefit analysis considering the cost of the project, the benefits to the population and potential income.

“The aim of the project is to apply the same pressure to the painful points of the foot with the help of the insole,” she said. “The problem is solved by improving the design of the insole by providing the necessary loads on the painful portions of the toe in patients with diabetes mellitus.”

She said the essence of the design of the insole is that its surface consists of a base in which diamond-shaped elements with different stiffness properties are interconnected. The rhombus elements form the upper part. In addition, depending on the painful areas of the patient’s toes, the less rigid diamond-shaped elements are selected in the appropriate areas. These elements are made of a deformable EVA polymer-rubber material. When the foot of a person with diabetes mellitus is interacting with the insole, the rhombus elements are deformed depending on the pressure applied.

Photo: from Madina's personal archive

In recognition of the effectiveness of her invention, the Ministry of Innovative Development of the Republic of Uzbekistan granted 1 billion sums (USD$88,000) as an award for an innovative project and an additional 302 million sums ($26,633) to invest in startup costs. The UNDP startup innovation award also came with 50 million sums ($4,800), which she invested in her new business.

Madina originally came up with the idea in her twenties while pursuing PhD degree in technical sciences (PhD) at the Academic Council of the Tashkent Institute of Textile and Light Industry.

“At that time,” she said, “it was an academic exercise that I hoped would become a solution to a problem that makes people suffer globally. The startup programme helped me to bring my idea to the market.”

Photo: from Madina's personal archive

Madina said she learned a lot about business and management during the start-up programme with UNDP, such as entrepreneurialism, problem solving and how to correctly present one’s invention to potential investors. “Through the programme I received a lot of information that was not available anywhere else, and which empowered me to success with my invention,” she said.  “I learned how to work with financial forecasts, how to evaluate the start-up market using various tools, and how to start a new business. Most importantly the programme organizers, coaches and mentors motivated me and made me believe in myself.”

She said one important thing she learned in the startup programme was the importance of communicating opportunities to target audiences or target groups as a key factor in sales.

“Therefore, having received financial support, I first invested it in advertising, including creating and maintaining the company’s website, telegram channel, pages in Facebook and Instagram,” she said.

During her four years of research, Madina faced many difficulties. At first, when she told someone about the ideas, many laughed and expressed doubts she could succeed.  But there were those who supported her. For example, an endocrinological doctor and her teacher advised that the matter should be carefully studied. He was the one who helped Madina complete her PhD. Now, despite being a representative of the technical field, she has considerable knowledge in the field of medicine. This knowledge helped to make the project scientifically sound. She keeps working on her scientific research now while pursuing her doctorate degree.

Madina said she hopes her example can serve as inspiration to other young women with dreams.  “I hope all the youth in our society can receive useful knowledge like I did, and never stop learning and working on themselves,” she said.  “If this can happen, there is great hope for our country because it is filled with young people with enormous potential.  All they need is that window of opportunity to achieve a bright future for themselves and their country.”

Watch this video for more on Madina Mukhammedova and Airy Insole.

“I hope all the youth in our society can receive useful knowledge like I did, and never stop learning and working on themselves”
Madina Mukhammedova