Young inventors working for a better world


14-01-2021
Benjamin Ndubuisi - one of the Young Innovators’ award winners

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

The awards look set to tackle some of society’s biggest challenges, including:

  • reducing plastic
  • tackling loneliness in care homes
  • helping new-born babies, wheelchair users and stroke survivors.

Making the world a better place

Among the 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.

Support for starting a business

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.

Inspiring young people

The inspiring young people will each benefit from:

  • £5,000 grant
  • one-on-one business coaching
  • 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.

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."

A novel, game-changing product

Commenting on their award and project, Nina Birchard said: "It is a simple, non-invasive positioning aid which ensures open airways while providing thermal support and an aide-mémoire to guide the user through the procedure. It is a novel, game-changing product which is simple to use and easy to produce. The Young Innovators Award seems like an amazing, supportive platform to learn, build and launch your business idea. I am so excited to get stuck in!"

Similarly, Anna Watkins, said: "It starts with seaweed slime. Add heat. Pour in some natural plasticiser. Stir in ethically sourced mineral powder for colour and shine… Three ingredients and a little time. That’s all it takes to make a sustainable, attractive alternative to leather and plastic. know that Young Innovators will help me to push my business and myself so much further than I could alone."

Emily Nott, Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at Innovate UK says: "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."

Further information

Read about all 64 Young Innovators.

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

To read more information, click here.