Young British inventors working for a better world

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Benjamin Ndubuisi

The winners of this year’s Young Innovators’ Awards have been announced by Innovate UK and The Prince’s Trust.

The award winners have tackled some of society’s biggest challenges including reducing plastic, tackling loneliness in care homes and helping new-born babies, wheelchair users and stroke survivors.

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.

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

  • 28 year old Michael Omotosho who invented Plu-gull, an electrical plug pull that makes it easier to remove stiff or fiddly plugs from sockets. It is designed to help those suffering from loss of dexterity and arthritis
  • 28 year old Michelle Best, founder of Blossom & Best. Her daughter’s struggle with incontinence inspired her to design and produce innovative handmade disability clothing for children and teenagers with disabilities or medical conditions. Her clothing includes Magic Pants, which help to remove some of the stigma of incontinence
  • 28 year old Eve Gregoriou, a PhD researcher at UCL in the Department of Clinical and Movement Neurosciences. Eve 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 company, RoboNurse4NHS, is developing socially-aware robotic companions for care homes and hospitals
  • 25 year old Pete Barr from London. His 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. It provides thermal support and the correct positioning to aide resuscitation in newborns where other resources are lacking.

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. This is double the number of award winners/recipients of previous years.

Recent research shows over a third of 18 to 34 year olds want to launch an independent enterprise in 2021, compared to 28% of 35 to 54 year olds. It is therefore even more important the support is available to those who want to venture into starting a business.

Despite a challenging start to 2021 for Britons, this array of talent brings hope for the future. It is clear that many of the winners have been inspired by the pandemic, with ideas ranging from:

  • an online marketplace for aspiring lockdown gardeners to sell their home-grown produce
  • the use of empty shops on local high streets as Creative Youth Labs to develop young people’s employability skills.

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
  • the projects cover all regions across the UK.

Read about all 64 Young Innovators here.

If you’re an inspiring young innovator, check out how Innovate UK could support you.


Source: UK Research and Innovation.

Launched in April 2018, UKRI is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). They bring together the seven disciplinary research councils, Research England, which is responsible for supporting research and knowledge exchange at higher education institutions in England, and the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK. For more details go to: https://www.ukri.org/

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