Upcoming talent: 17 young innovators to watch

Young man stood against a background lit up pink and orange

From cutting-edge assistive technology to planet-saving wines, Innovate UK is delivering fresh support to the UK’s next generation of innovation talent.

Innovate UK has provided 17 Young Innovators from across the country a further boost to their early-stage businesses, through the Young Innovators Next Steps Awards.

In recognition of their success with their initial Young Innovators Award these aspiring entrepreneurs have won fresh investment to support their future business plans.

Coinciding with the announcement, Innovate UK is launching its biggest and most ambitious programme to tackle underrepresentation in innovation to date, the Innovate UK Unlocking Potential Award.

This brand-new programme builds upon the success of the Young Innovators awards. Backed by a £6 million budget, it will allow Innovate UK to support even more young entrepreneurs, women founders and other diverse talent.

Fueling future growth plans

Project range from a Minecraft-inspired video game which engages young people with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) topics, to novel 3D weaving technologies that make garments in a single step with zero waste.

The 17 innovators announced today are disrupting their sectors with new solutions to major social, economic and environmental challenges.

Since winning their first Innovate UK award, the winners have:

  • secured further funding from investors
  • collaborated with leading researchers
  • launched products
  • expanded their teams
  • secured new offices, workshops and production facilities
  • won prestigious industry awards

With a focus on helping young people take their innovations to the next level, the Young Innovators Next Steps Awards will see each winner receive an additional £50,000 to fuel their growth plans.

Diverse range of innovations

Hand holding a modern scanner device

Handheld navigation device for the visually impaired. Credit: Theia Robotics

The Young Innovators Next Steps award winners, who span the country, include:

Anthony Camu

Anthony (26) is the creator of Theia Robotics, named after the Greek Goddess of Sight and Vision.

Theia is a handheld orientation and mobility device to support the 340,000 people registered blind or partially sighted in the UK.

Using similar technologies to autonomous cars, the device guides users’ hands, helping them closely follow paths, similar to a guide dog pulling on its leash.

Since winning the Young Innovators Award, Anthony has successfully raised £700,000 for his business, secured new facilities, and is hiring the company’s first employees.

Aurelie Fontan

Aurelie 28) is a fashion and biodesigner originally from Paris. She is the creator of Osmose Studio, based in Nottinghamshire, a fashion collection dedicated to addressing environmental issues.

The company creates dye for their garments by growing plants on polluted soil, simultaneously cleaning it up and obtaining natural pigments for textile dyeing.

Since winning the award, Aurelie has successfully used the pitching training to partner with scientists to refine her production processes, so it can be used on a larger scale.

Three bottles of wine

Eco-conscious wines made from surplus fruit. Credit: Two Racoons

Lasse Melgaard

Lasse (26) is a microbiologist with a passion for sustainability.

What started off as dumpster-diving at university soon bloomed into Two Racoons, a business that uses fruit surplus to create unique, delicious fruit wines all while repurposing waste from the fermentation process to grow mushrooms.

Since winning the award, Lasse has secured more large suppliers of surplus ingredients and expanded to retailers across Scotland.

Alex Newnes

Alex (29) has founded PlantSea to develop new materials from seaweed as a sustainable alternative to single-use plastics.

The business was born out of Alex and his two friends’ desire to tackle plastic pollution and contribute to a more sustainable future.

Since winning his first award, Alex has produced a range of new prototype materials, secured collaborative grant funding, moved to larger facilities, and expanded his team.

Hand holding rectangular device, another rest in a branded box.

Screenless Devices that make mindfulness fun for kids. Credit Liam Murphy

Liam Murphy

Liam (26), is a product designer and the creator of Stix, a screen-free gaming device which improves children’s mental wellbeing by making mindfulness fun, without leaving children glued to devices.

Inspired by Liam’s younger brother who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Stix uses two hand held remotes that have built-in audio and provide players with sensory feedback in the form of lights and vibrations.

Since winning his first award Liam has launched the device and now hopes to roll it out to more classrooms.

Amelia Seifalian

Amelia (26) is a gynaecologist training in the NHS, and passionate advocate for women’s health.

Amelia created Hastalex, a new artificial pelvic membrane which uses stem cell technology to safely treat pelvic organ prolapse, which affects about 40% of women worldwide.

This condition was previously treated with a mesh made of polypropylene, which has since been banned for use due to severe safety concerns.

Woman stood next to a weaving machine

Innovative 3D weaving system that produces zero-waste fashion. Credit: Weffan

Graysha Audren

Graysha (25) is a textile designer passionate about zero-waste clothes manufacturing.

Graysha founded Weffan to pioneer 3D weaving systems that integrate textile production and garment manufacturing into one seamless step, shortening the production process and reducing waste.

Since winning the Young Innovators Award, Graysha has created a product development roadmap, partnered with leading researchers, hired her first employees and won the Fashion District’s prestigious Design Futures Award.

Thomas Constant

Thomas (28), founder of The Bug Factory, is making home-composting more accessible and sustainable through insect-growing-pods that repurpose waste into both plant fertiliser and pet food.

Since winning his first award, Thomas has successfully launched the Bug Factory’s growing pods and now operates across the UK, EU and North America.

Purpose-driven innovation

The inspirational group of Next Steps award winners are motivated by a passion for making the world more sustainable and inclusive, while driving the UK’s economy with their innovatives and ambitious business plans.

Other winning ideas include:

  • a sustainable drinkware brand producing unique reusable bottles that can be dismantled for cleaning
  • an online platform that demystifies and streamlines the home buying process
  • cutting-edge micro-turbines that allow the water industry to sustainably monitor pipelines

Improving health on a global level

Amelia Seifalian, creator of Hastalex said:

Winning Innovate UK’s Young Innovators Award provided me with time and support, financially and through mentorship, to develop a prototype membrane for treating pelvic organ prolapse.

The additional support granted through the Young Innovators Next Steps Award will allow me to plan for the pre-clinical trials for what we believe is a really viable product for improving women’s health on a global level.

The dynamic spirit of our country

Chloe Smith, Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, said:

To see so many young innovators fizzing with ground-breaking ideas – from reducing food and clothing waste to supporting the blind – is testament to the dynamic spirit of our country. I have no doubt they will inspire the rest of their generation and those that follow.

This Government will always back enterprise and I’m delighted this funding can help the winners to reap the rewards of their creativity, while growing our economy and improving lives through innovation.

Inspiring the next generation of innovators

Indro Mukerjee, CEO of Innovate UK said:

Innovate UK is committed to inspiring and supporting the next generation of innovators, as they will play a critical role in the UK’s future economy.

The team congratulates the Young Innovators Next Step award winners and looks forward to seeing their businesses develop further.

Significant socioeconomic impact

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

These young people have managed to turn their brilliant ideas for innovation into successful businesses.

Our young innovators have worked tirelessly to realise their ambitions and Innovate UK is proud to have helped them on this journey.

Their disruptive innovations will have significant social and economic impacts and I hope that their stories will help many more young people to see that a future career in innovation could be for them.

Further information

One of the UK’s greatest assets is the incredible, diverse talent we have available for innovation. However, while talent is evenly distributed, opportunity is not.

Building on the success of the Young Innovators and Women in Innovation programmes, Innovate UK is launching the new Unlocking Potential Award. This £6 million programme aims to uncover diverse talent across the UK.

If you have an innovative business idea or a business with big ambitions, you could win financial backing, one-to-one business support, and a package of training, networking and role-modelling opportunities.

Upcoming entrepreneurs can learn more and register their interest in the forthcoming Innovate UK Unlocking Potential Award, which open on 10 July 2023.

Top image:  Seyed Nasrollahi. Credit: UKRI

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