Investing in the UK’s next generation of innovators

Young Innovator Fergal Mackie, who has developed Metacarpal, a body-powered bionic hand to give those with upper-limb amputations a better experience, using no electronics.

Inventions created by the Innovate UK Young Innovators Awards include robotic vessels, a body-powered bionic hand and alternatives to plastic.

Announced today, the 94 winners will receive £1.25 million in grants to help tackle some of our biggest societal challenges.

The Young Innovators competition received almost 700 applicants this year, up 25% on the previous year.

Exceptional standard

The exceptional standard of ideas led Innovate UK to award over 50% more winners this year (94 versus 63), making this the largest cohort of Young Innovators to-date.

Diverse cohort

The Young Innovators Awards recognise a diverse cohort of entrepreneurs from every nation and region of the UK.

Each inspiring young person will benefit from a £5,000 grant, one-on-one business coaching and an allowance to cover living costs.

Science, Research and Innovation Minister George Freeman said:

Innovation is about developing new and better ways of doing things, something young minds naturally do.

Our Innovation Nation mission, and 50% increase in Innovate UK budget, is about investing in R&D in all parts of the UK to help drive economic investment and create exciting new career opportunities.

These 94 young innovators will each receive a £5000 grant, 1 to 1 mentoring and living cost support to develop their innovations. The next Sir James Dyson, Martha Lane Fox, Hayaatun Sillem or Richard Branson are out there.

Helping, inspiring and supporting our top young innovators is the best investment there is.

Driving our innovation nation

Indro Mukerjee, CEO Innovate UK said:

The Innovate UK Young Innovators program is an important part of our many activities to strongly develop the talent pipeline needed to further drive our innovation nation.

I warmly congratulate all the Young Innovators Award winners and look forward to keeping in touch as they progress.

Race to net zero

The race to net zero is inspiring many of this year’s entrepreneurs. From sustainable concrete that captures carbon dioxide to a new app for shoppers to store their paperless, digital receipts, while healthy living also looms large, with snackable vitamins and high fibre fizzy drinks.

Other winners were inspired by personal or family health challenges. They now hope to improve outcomes for others, from a smart medication dispenser that promotes patient independence to an app that provides new amputees with support, services, and a community.

The innovators

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

  • Anahita Laverack (22 years old) who has created Oshen, a fleet of autonomous, robotic vessels that resembles mini-sailboats, to capture live data from our oceans to improve everything from fishing to weather forecasting to shipping route planning
  • Abiel Ma (24 years old), founder of Vuala, who is making recycling easy, using specialised microorganisms to automatically liquefy and separate food waste from other waste, turning it into raw material for biogas and animal feed
  • Lily Elsner (29 years old), who has created Jack Fertility, a mail-in sperm test kit, offering lab-grade semen analysis results without needing to set foot in a clinic
  • Anna Wilson (29 years old), from North Cambridge who is creating Tortoise, an activity tracking app for users with injuries to bones, joints or muscles. The goal for Anna, who is also in the England squad for touch rugby, is to support and motivate people as they rehabilitate at home
  • Fergal Mackie (25 years old), who has developed Metacarpal, a body-powered bionic hand to give those with upper-limb amputations a better experience, using no electronics
  • Alasdair Aegerter (28 years old), an aerospace engineer who has created a hybrid aircraft, the ‘plane-o-copter’, that can land anywhere. It can be used to transport goods more efficiently and to combat illegal logging, poaching and human trafficking
  • Paul McCreery (30 years old), who has created a range of healthy carbonated drinks, FUNKI drinks will contain 50% of your daily fibre intake

Great business ideas

The Young Innovators Awards recognise young people with great business ideas who have the potential to become successful entrepreneurs and future leaders in innovation.

In addition to the awards, Innovate UK delivers workshops and briefing events to provide practical business advice to a network of over 12,500 young people across the UK.

With a clear drive to support underrepresented innovation talent, this year, 46% of the winners are female, 39% are Black, Asian or from another ethnic minority group, and 11% have identified as disabled.

Project Tortoise Limited

Commenting on her award and project Tortoise Limited, Anna Wilson, said:

I am very excited to be chosen as a winner of Innovate UK’s Young Innovators Award. Through this support and mentorship I hope to turn my idea into a reality.

My innovation, Tortoise, is an app that empowers people to stay mentally and physically fit whilst recovering after injury.

Innovate UK is guiding me on the journey to bring the app to market and help the 1.7 billion people worldwide with musculoskeletal injuries. I’m excited to make the most of the expert business mentorship and funding, and see where I can drive the business over the next 12 months.

FUNKI

Inspired by his passion for health and wellness, Paul McCreery, said:

I’m delighted to be a winner of the Young Innovators Awards, having the support from Innovate UK has really propelled me on my mission to get FUNKI to become the go-to soft drink for consumers who want to improve their digestive health and look after their gut.

I would love to hire, grow and manage a team of FUNKI gut health enthusiasts who are all onboard the mission of solving the ‘fibre gap’ in the UK.

I know the mentorship and funding I get through the Innovate UK programme will help me on my journey to achieve this.

Creating opportunities

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

The level of creativity, passion, and commitment to positive change within our society and environment in this year’s Young Innovators Award winners is beyond inspiring.

Knowing that Innovate UK is creating opportunities and providing support to enable these young people from a wide range of different backgrounds across all parts of the UK to grow and develop their businesses makes me very proud.

With the financial uncertainty this year brings, it’s fantastic to see these entrepreneurs starting businesses that will improve the world and boost innovation in the UK. We can’t wait to see what they will achieve next.

Find out more details on all 94 Young Innovators on the Innovate UK KTN website.

This year, Innovate UK will be expanding the scope, scale and impact of support available to young innovators. Find out more about how Innovate UK could support you on the Innovate UK KTN website.

Top image:  Young Innovator Fergal Mackie, who has developed Metacarpal, a body-powered bionic hand to give those with upper-limb amputations a better experience, using no electronics. Credit: Fergal Mackie

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