From plastic alternatives derived from seaweed to socially-aware robotic companions for people living in care homes, the winners of this year’s Young Innovators’ Awards, announced today by Innovate UK and The Prince’s Trust, look set to tackle some of our biggest societal challenges.

The Young Innovators Awards recognise young people from across the UK with great business ideas who have the potential to become successful entrepreneurs and future leaders in innovation. Following an unprecedented level of entries, with an 87% increase in applications year-on-year, 64 young people have started the New Year with a boost after getting the coveted award, double the number of award winners/recipients of previous years.

Despite a challenging start to 2021 for Britons, this array of talent brings hope for the future. With ideas ranging from an online marketplace for aspiring lockdown gardeners to sell their home-grown produce, to the use of empty shops on local high streets as Creative Youth Labs to develop young people’s employability skills, it is clear that many of the winners have been inspired by the pandemic.

The inspiring young people will each benefit from a £5,000 grant, one-on-one business coaching and an allowance to cover living costs. The programme is set to continue awarding young people from diverse backgrounds until at least 2023. This year, 49% of the winners are female; nearly a third are Black, Asian or from an ethnic minority background; 17% have a disability and the projects cover all regions across the UK.

Amongst the innovators looking to make the world a better place are:

  • 28 year old Michael Omotosho whose invented Plu-gull, an electrical plug pull that makes it easier to remove stiff or fiddly plugs from sockets, which is designed to help those suffering from loss of dexterity and arthritis.
  • 28 year old Michelle Best, founder of Blossom & Best, whose own daughter’s struggle with incontinence inspired her to design and produce innovative handmade disability clothing for children and teenagers with disabilities or medical conditions, including Magic Pants, which help to remove some of the stigma of incontinence.
  • 25 year old Pete Barr from London whose Enay-ball visual arts tool attaches to a wheelchair or table and enables anyone with a physical disability, even the most highly paralysed, to draw, paint or create independently.
  • 24 year old Nina Birchard from Glasgow, Scotland who has designed the Newborn Rescue Towel, a low cost emergency medical device which provides thermal support and the correct positioning to aide resuscitation in newborns where other resources are lacking.
  • 28 year old Eve Gregoriou, a PhD researcher at UCL in the Department of Clinical and Movement Neurosciences, has used her expertise in brain stimulation applications to build her company NeuroVirt, which helps stroke survivors reach their full recovery potential, with a focus on hand impairment.
  • 27 year old Anna Watkins from the North West who believes that the material revolution doesn’t need expensive laboratories: it can be done in an ordinary kitchen using seaweed. Uncommon Alchemy produces beautifully handcrafted notebooks, wallets, tech cases and lampshades made from a unique seaweed leather.
  • 26 year old PhD student Penelope Roberts, whose working on the development of robotic companions for care homes and hospitals. Her company RoboNurse4NHS aims to provide socially-aware robotic companions for people at home or in hospitals and care.

Read about all 64 Young Innovators in the brochure below!

Emily Nott, Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at Innovate UK said:

“With 2020 proving to be an incredibly difficult year, maintaining our focus on Young Innovators was a priority for Innovate UK since finding the great entrepreneurial minds of the future is more important than ever. Working alongside this year’s winners, Innovate UK will help them grow and develop their business idea to make the world a better, and more innovative place. We can’t wait to see what they achieve this year.”

Amanda Solloway Science Minister said:

“While the past year has brought significant challenges for us all, it has also shone a light on the best of British ingenuity, with young people across the country harnessing their entrepreneurial spirit to help the UK respond to these challenges. 

From mobile apps supporting our brilliant NHS staff to online mentoring tools helping graduates find employment, the inspiring business ideas we are backing today will help to unleash our next generation of innovators as we build back better from the pandemic.”

The programme seeks to nurture the talents of tomorrow, ensuring that every part of the country powers our collective success, whilst tackling some of the most important challenges our society faces. It will support young people over 3 years with individuals benefiting from a £5,000 grant, one-on-one coaching and an allowance to cover living costs.

#IdeasMeanBusiness campaign was devised to encourage and empower young people from any background to innovate and be successful. It encourages and enables entrepreneurship and innovation among more young people and brings new diverse ideas, passion and expertise into the innovation ecosystem.

You can find out more here and read the full announcement here.

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