Young innovators look to change the world

Mihir Sheth

The winners of this year’s Young Innovators’ Awards, announced today by Innovate UK, look set to tackle some of our biggest societal challenges.

Projects include:

  • a washing machine that re-uses shower water
  • 3D printed knee replacements
  • a way of turning bottle tops into furniture
  • designers turning fish skins into bags
  • a device that keeps a patient’s muscles working when on a ventilator to avoid muscle wastage.

63 inspiring winners

The 63 inspiring young winners have been given:

  • a £5,000 grant
  • one-on-one business coaching
  • an allowance to cover living costs.

Making the world a better place

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

Joanna Power, 23 years old, from London

Joanna is co-founder of Lylo Products.

Joanna was inspired by the world’s shrinking reserves of water to create a washing machine that uses filtered shower water to help reduce water usage in the home.

Max Munford, 25 years old, from London

Max is a PhD student at Imperial College London.

Max is the creator of patented 3D-printed knee replacements that have been proven to address problems such as bone loss and implant failure by stimulating long-term bone growth.

Mihir Sheth, 28 years old, from Oxford

Mihir was inspired by seeing so many patients on ventilators during the pandemic.

Mihir co-invented Inspiritus Health, a simple to use, non-invasive medical device that keeps patients’ muscles engaged when they are on a ventilator to prevent muscle wastage.

Anthony Camu, 28 years old, from Cheshire

Anthony is on a mission with his business Theia Guidance Systems.

It replaces white canes for the visually impaired with a handheld sensing device that replicates the core functions of a guide dog, helping users follow paths and avoid obstacles.

Rui Xu, 28 years old, from London

Rui Xu is the inventor of FreshTag.

FreshTag allows consumers to see at a glance whether the food they’ve bought is still safe to eat.

The novel pH-sensitive colour coding solution accurately indicates if the food is still fresh even after a sell by date, reducing food waste.

Beth Kume-Holland, 27 years old, from London

Beth has created Patchwork Hub, an accessible employment platform.

It connects employers to skilled professionals who are looking for work opportunities outside the conventional nine to five office job, like parents and carers

Chantelle Edwards, 31 years old, from West London.

Chantelle is creating a more diverse line of recyclable and biodegradable maternity bras and lingerie products that compliment a variety of skin tones, sizes, and curves

Natalie Kerres, 27 years old, from Marylebone

Natalie took inspiration from scaled animals like lizards, fish and pangolins to develop athletic guards, made of interlocking scales.

These guards protect vulnerable body parts like wrists and spines, without impairing movement.

Future leaders in innovation

The Young Innovators Awards recognise young people from every region and nation of the UK who have great business ideas and the potential to become successful entrepreneurs and future leaders in innovation.

Innovate UK KTN supports the programme through the delivery of workshops and briefing events. It provides practical business advice to a network of over 8,000 young people across the UK.

Hundreds of these aspiring entrepreneurs then apply to the programme and, following a robust evaluation process, 63 innovators have started the new year with a boost after winning the coveted award.

Race to net zero

The race to net zero clearly looms large in these young innovators’ minds.

With a wide range of exciting ideas to promote sustainability, it is clear that many of the winners have been galvanised by the environmental crisis. Ideas include:

  • turning bottle lids into furniture
  • creating wearable devices that charge themselves by harvesting energy like body heat
  • carbon labels for food that allow people to make selections based on sustainability as well as nutrition.

And, as we continue to navigate through the pandemic, it too has played a part in inspiring the next generation, with ideas including:

  • WorkLocal, an online app that helps home-based workers discover local pubs, bars and cafes to work from and a micro garden subscription
  • Little Roots, delivering ready-planted containers for urban flat-dwellers, to bring nature to them.

Enabling entrepreneurship and innovation

The Young Innovator Awards aims to enable entrepreneurship and innovation among more young people to:

  • help them bring more diverse ideas and businesses into the economy
  • champion innovations for the underrepresented
  • provide a platform for game-changers.

According to Forbes (March 2021) diverse workplaces drive innovation. The more diverse teams are in culture, ethnicity, gender, age, experience, education, expertise etc., the more likely they are to draw inspiration from seemingly unrelated places. Hence, they have more innovative ideas.

Incredibly grateful

Commenting on his award and project, Inspiritus Health, Mihir Sheth, said:

During the pandemic, naturally the attention globally was on the need to get seriously ill patients on ventilators.

But I became increasingly frustrated as I saw patients slowly wasting away, with no-one considering how to quickly get patients off the ventilators.

After six days, a patient can lose up to 32% of their respiratory muscle strength.

I paired up with a consultant anaesthetist to develop a non-invasive device to keep the patient’s muscles engaged from the first day of ventilation.

I feel incredibly grateful to be part of this cohort of winners.

Inspiring young designers and engineers

Joanna Power

Joanna Power, co-founder of Lylo Products (credit: Joanna Power)

Emulating the pioneering spirit of one of her design idols, Sir James Dyson, winner Joanna Power of Lylo Products, said:

England is set to run short of water within 25 years.

We must examine our current use of water more strategically.

Our washing machine does just that, its removable water tank is placed on the shower floor during showering, then returned to its base for use in the laundry process!

I applied for the Young Innovators programme to inspire other young female designers and engineers.

Passion to make a difference

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

2021 continued to be a challenging year of uncertainty.

This makes it even more extraordinary how many of the winners have made such progress on their ideas, undeterred and resolute in their passion to make a difference in their own unique way.

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 next.

Incredible innovation potential

Indro Mukerjee, CEO of Innovate UK, said:

The innovation potential of this young age group is incredible.

It’s a cohort that promises to bring energy, entrepreneurial flair and fresh perspectives to today’s big challenges.

Our young innovators are also relatable role models, inspiring and showing the path to others, as they create economic and societal benefits through innovation, so that we can all see a fairer, more resilient and more productive society.

Further information

About Young Innovators

As part of UK Research and Innovation, Innovate UK wants to give inspiring young entrepreneurs the opportunity to take their business idea to the next level through our Young Innovators programme and #IdeasMeanBusiness campaign.

The programme nurtures the talents of tomorrow to tackle some of society’s most pressing challenges.

The programme also aims to help build a more inclusive, accessible business landscape, whilst ensuring that every part of the country can power our collective success.

It will support young people for 12 months, 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.

Top image:  Mihir Sheth, co-inventor of Inspiritus Health (credit: Mihir Sheth)

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