FOUR of this year’s Young Innovator Award winners, announced today by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, come from Wales. The winners started the new year with a boost after winning a coveted prize for their new business ventures.
From a fully autonomous robotic ship to help improve weather forecasting and climate change research to a low-cost electric airplane so more people can pursue aviation as a career or hobby, innovators in the Land of Wales promise to make the world a better place.
Young people in the UK are showing a growing appetite for innovation and entrepreneurship. The Young Innovators competition received nearly 700 applications this year, up 25% compared to the previous year. The exceptional level of ideas led to Innovate UK awarding over 50% more winners this year (94 vs. 63), making it the largest cohort of young innovators to date.
Winners from Wales will take a share of the £1.25million prize fund. They join a cohort of 94 young people aged between 18 and 30 with business ideas that could change the world and will benefit from a £5,000 grant, one-on-one business coaching and a stipend to cover living expenses. Winners in Wales include:
• Anahita Laverack (22), a sailing enthusiast from Victoria Dock, Caernarfon, who created Oshen, a fully autonomous robotic vessel that looks like a mini sailboat, to capture live data of our oceans, from wind to temperature, waves and currents. The data promises to help improve everything from fishing to weather forecasting and climate change research.
• Jacob McCarthy (23), of Castle View, Caerphilly, whose company, Shield Performance Products, offers a range of motion sensing sportswear. The innovative garments will be equipped with sensors linked to an iOS app that assesses movement and provides comprehensive performance verification. Jacob hopes the platform will help prevent injuries by improving people’s exercise technique.
• Jamila La Malfa-Donaldson (30), industrial hemp PhD researcher from Aberystwyth and founder of PROHEMPOTIC LTD which aims to create healthier and more sustainable diets through hemp-based food products. Its products use local hemp-based food ingredients and are designed for people looking to reduce their meat and dairy consumption.
• Michael Roberts (28), from Anglesey, North Wales, passionate about aircraft and the engineering behind them. His idea is to develop an electric plane that is inexpensive to manufacture and operate. He hopes this will allow more people to pursue aviation as a career or a hobby.
The Young Innovators Awards recognize young people with great business ideas who have the potential to become successful entrepreneurs and future innovation leaders. In addition to the awards, Innovate UK offers workshops and information events to provide practical business advice to a network of over 12,500 young people across the UK.
With a clear desire to support underrepresented innovation talent, this year 46% of winners are women, 39% are Black, Asian or from another minority ethnic group, and 11% identified as disabled. .
Commenting on his award and his Shield Performance Products project, Jacob McCarthy, said: “I am extremely grateful to be part of the next cohort of Innovate UK’s Young Innovators Award. I feel like a significant weight has been lifted off my shoulders during the crucial product development stages of my business, thanks to the funding and industry mentorship that I have been granted. My dream has long been to combine my engineering skills with my passion for fitness in the form of a career, but I struggled to find opportunities to do so. The award will finally help me bring my ideas to life and I hope I can inspire others in the same way.”
Emily Nott, Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Programs at Innovate UK, said: “The level of creativity, passion and commitment to positive change in our society and environment among this year’s Young Innovator Award winners is beyond inspiring. I take great pride in knowing that Innovate UK is creating opportunities and providing support to enable these young people from a wide variety of backgrounds in all parts of the UK to grow and develop their businesses. With the financial uncertainty this year brings, it is fantastic to see these entrepreneurs starting businesses that will improve the world and drive innovation in the UK. We can’t wait to see what they come up with next.”
Indro Mukerjee, CEO of Innovate UK, said: “The Innovate UK Young Innovators program is an important part of our many activities aimed at strongly developing the talent pool needed to further boost our innovation nation. I warmly congratulate all of the Young Innovators Award winners and look forward to keeping in touch as they progress.”.
Secretary of State for Wales, David TC Davies, said: “Congratulations to the young innovators from Wales on their success! These are our entrepreneurs of the future, who have come up with fantastic ideas and can now get the support they need to take the next step. I’m proud that the UK government is helping young talent bring their ideas to life and drive innovation in Wales.”
Details of the 94 Young Innovators can be found here. This year, Innovate UK will expand the scope, scale and impact of support for young innovators. If you are an inspiring young innovator, find out how Innovate UK could support you here: https://ktn-uk.org/programme/young-innovators/