Young innovators given critical boost

Eve Gregoriou sitting, holding her virtual reality technology handset

Nineteen young innovators across the country have been given a further boost to their early-stage businesses through the Young Innovators Next Steps Awards.

Today, 19 young innovators across the country have been given a further boost to their early-stage businesses by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, through the Young Innovators Next Steps Awards.

These entrepreneurs were previous recipients of the Young Innovators Award and have now been awarded a second time, based on their progress and their future growth plans.

Looking for young people with innovative ideas

The announcement comes as Innovate UK calls for the next generation of innovators to come forward and apply to be part of the Young Innovators Award 2022 to 2023 cohort.

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

Up to 100 winning young entrepreneurs will be supported for 12 months, with individuals benefiting from:

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

Young Innovators Next Steps award winners

The 19 innovators are already making a big impact in their sectors.

Examples of their big impact include:

  • the first prosthetic limb for children that grows as they do
  • wallets made of seaweed
  • technology to help monitor and protect our bees.

In just over 12 months, since winning their first Innovate UK award, the pioneers have:

  • attracted further investment
  • secured offices and production facilities
  • expanded their teams (creating over 50 new jobs)
  • filed patents and landed important deals with the likes of John Lewis, Marks and Spencer and Microsoft.

Scaling up ground-breaking ideas

With a focus on helping young people really scale up their ground-breaking ideas, the Young Innovators Next Steps Awards will see each winner receive £50,000.

The winners include:

Kate Walker, Loughborough

Kate has designed a prosthetic that can actually grow with children, unlike any other prosthetic currently available.

ExpHand Prosthetics provides affordable, life-changing upper limb prosthetics that give children their independence back.

Since winning her first award, Kate has:

  • had positive academic and clinical product reviews
  • connected with NHS clinicians
  • submitted two patent applications
  • hired four people.

Kate is currently securing ExpHand Prosthetics’ first investment round.

Marcus Comaschi, Brighton

Marcus is helping to transform vertical farming, a field that is increasingly playing an important role in global food security.

His company, GyroPlant, has designed GrowCup™, a reusable alternative to single-use growing media for seeds.

Since winning his first award, Marcus has been working with partners across the UK, including working with one of the largest vertical farming tech companies in the UK, to:

  • accelerate research and development
  • bring his product to market.

Anna Watkins, Penrith

Anna has taken seaweed slime and used it to create a sustainable, vegan and 100% biobased alternative to leather and plastic. She turns it into everything from handcrafted notebooks to wallets and lampshades.

Since winning her first award, Anna has taken Uncommon Alchemy from a craft business into an industrially scalable production process. A process where she can create sheet material and sell it to fashion brands and designers.

Ellis Parry, Cambridge

Ellis founded Neumind after his identical twin brother suffered a brain injury in 2012.

The neumind team are creating a platform to empower individuals with head injuries and neurological conditions to live a more functional and independent life.

Since winning his first award, Ellis has:

  • raised £250,000 of investment
  • released a prototype
  • gone from one user (his brother) to over 350
  • developed an ambitious strategy to deliver cost-effective, long-term support in the neuro sector.

Casey Woodward, York

Casey has set up AgriSound, which is deploying listening devices across the planet to transform how people monitor insect activity and protect vulnerable and critical pollinators like bees.

Since winning his first award, Casey has:

  • doubled his turnover
  • launched a new product
  • begun high profile projects with Marks and Spencer, Innocent Drinks and Dyson Farming.

These Next Step winners’ ideas are improving lives and creating a more sustainable, productive and prosperous future.

New advances in technology are also at the heart of many of the innovators’ business, including:

  • an artificial intelligence personal trainer
  • an interactive online platform to inspire the digital generation to pick up their knitting needles
  • a mobile app designed to help families monitor and improve their wellbeing.

Young Innovators 2022 to 2023 competition

All 19 winners originally scooped Young Innovator Awards in 2021.

The Young Innovators Awards recognise young people, aged 18 to 30, from every region and nation of the UK with great business ideas who have the potential to become:

  • successful entrepreneurs
  • future leaders in innovation.

Award winners will each receive:

  • a £5,000 grant
  • a living allowance
  • a package of business coaching
  • mentoring from a personal innovation champion from Innovate UK Edge.

Expanding our businesses

Commenting on his award and project, Casey said:

AgriSound was founded to modernise the practice of monitoring and protection of vulnerable insect species. Since winning the Young Innovators Award, we have launched a new product,Polly, which is a wild pollinator counting device and doubled our turnover.

My team and I are thrilled to have won Innovate UK’s Young Innovators Next Steps Award to continue developing our products and expanding our business.

Enabling entrepreneurship and innovation

The Young Innovator Awards 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 gamechangers looking to make a societal, economic and environmental impact.

Inspiring other young people

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

It’s one thing to have a business idea and, as so many aspiring entrepreneurs would attest, quite another to make it a reality.

These innovative young people have worked relentlessly to realise their ambitions and we are proud of the role we are able to play in helping them on this journey.

Their disruptive ideas stand to make a big impact, but their stories are important in other ways too, if they can inspire other young people to come forward and innovate, we will all benefit.

Supporting next generation innovators

Innovate UK’s Chief Executive Officer, Indro Mukerjee, said:

Innovate UK is committed to inspiring and supporting the next generation of innovators. We will work to inspire, involve, and invest in their talent to create a strong future economy and society.

Congratulations to the Young Innovators Next Step award winners and I look forward to seeing their businesses develop even further.

Creating new opportunities

Science Minister, George Freeman said:

Congratulations to all the winners of Innovate UK’s Young Innovators Next Steps awards.

To unlock our potential as an innovation nation we need to inspire a new generation of young innovators and entrepreneurs to bring their ambition and innovation to create new opportunities, businesses and jobs across the whole country.

An innovation economy is key to an opportunity society.

The ideas of these young innovators are already helping us address some urgent challenges, from monitoring the impact of climate change on bees which are essential for pollination of our crops to producing aids for patients suffering from stroke and head injury.

I’m really looking forward to seeing who this year’s competition discovers.

Aspiring entrepreneurs can learn more and register their interest in the forthcoming Young Innovators awards, which open on 13 June 2022.

Further information

About Young Innovators

As part of UK Research and Innovation, Innovate UK wants to give aspiring young entrepreneurs the opportunity to take their business ideas to the next level through our:

  • Young Innovators programme
  • #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 innovation 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 business support, and a two-day allowance to cover living costs.

The #IdeasMeanBusiness campaign was devised to 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.

Find out more about Young Innovators on their registration page.

About Innovate UK

As the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK drives productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realise the potential of new ideas. This includes those from the UK’s world-class research base.

It connects businesses to the partners, customers and investors that can help them turn their ideas into commercially successful products and services, and business growth.

This is the website for UKRI: our seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK. Let us know if you have feedback or would like to help improve our online products and services.