Building the next generation of UK innovators

The Young Innovators Awards received a 25% boost in applicants this year, reaching an unprecedented total of almost 700 young UK innovators.

The 94 winners of the highly competitive event will receive a share of £1.25m in grants to help solve the biggest challenges we face in society today. Amongst the inventions were everything from a fleet of robotic vessels resembling mini-sailboats all the way to plastic alternatives and soft drinks.

The high standard of the competition this year, alongside the increase in participants, meant that Innovate UK awarded over 50% more winners compared to the year prior. The pool of 94 winners, up from 63, made this event the largest gathering of young inventors and innovators to date.

CEO of Innovate UK, Indro Mukerjee commented on the success of the event saying: “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.”

A gathering of diversity

The Young Innovators Awards was pleased to recognise the diversity of attendees, seeing entrepreneurs and minds from every nation and region of the UK. With an urge to support innovation talent that is typically underrepresented, this year, 46% of the winners are female, 39% are Black, Asian or from another ethnic minority group, and 11% identify as disabled.

Each of the winners will receive a £5,000 grant along with one-on-one business coaching and a maintenance allowance to cover living costs.

George Freeman, Minister of Science, Research and Innovation 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.”

He went on further to say: “These 94 young innovators will each receive a £5,000 grant, one-to-one mentoring, and living cost support to develop their innovations. The next Sir James Dyson, Martha Lane Fox, Hayaatin Sillem or Ricard Branson are out there. Helping, inspiring, and supporting our top young innovators is the best investment there is.”

Aspiring for a better tomorrow

The race to net zero has been a key driving force behind many of the young entrepreneurs and innovators at this year’s event. From Co2 capturing concrete to a new app making more things paperless, the desire for a better tomorrow is lighting up minds across the nation.

Other inspirations lay in personal or related health challenges faced by the diverse innovators at the awards. By hoping to improve not only their own tomorrow but also the tomorrow of others, creations such as smart medication dispensers that promote patient independence have been pioneered.

Meet some of the UK innovators behind the magic

Here are some of the amazing young people trying to make the world of tomorrow a better one:

  • Abiel Ma, 24, is the Founder of Vuala, a company making the process of recycling easy through the use of specialised microorganisms. These microorganisms are able to automatically liquefy and separate food waste from other waste without impacting the leftover waste. The microorganisms even go one step further to turn food waste into raw material that can then see use as animal feed or biogas.
  • Alasdair Aegerter, 28, is an aerospace engineer who has created the ‘plane-o-copter’, a hybrid aircraft that is capable of landing anywhere. They hope that their ‘plane-o-copter’ will be used to combat issues such as poaching, illegal logging, or human trafficking whilst also being an efficient method of goods transportation.
  • Anahita Laverack, 22, has created Oshen, an autonomous fleet of robotic vessels that resemble miniature sailboats. By using these, live data from our oceans can be captured with the hope that the gathered data can be used to improve upon everything from weather forecasting to fishing.
  • Lily Esner, 29, has founded Jack Fertility, a company that hopes to make sperm testing more accessible by delivering a mail-in sperm test kit that offers lab-grade semen analysis and results without ever having to set foot in a clinic.

Giving young UK innovators a chance

Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Programmes at Innovate UK, Emily Nott said: “The level of creativity, passion, and commitment to positive change within our society and environment in this tears, 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.”

Taking business ideas and making them a reality

The Young Innovators Awards recognise young people that have great business ideas with the potential to become future leaders of innovation. Innovate UK pushes for these ideas to become a reality, delivering workshops and briefing events that provide young entrepreneurs with practical business advice to a network of over 12,500 young people across the UK.

One of the 94 award winners, and creator of 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 an injury. Innovate UK is guiding me on the journey to bring the app to market and help the 1.7bn 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.”

Another of the winners, for his ideas in tackling health and wellness through FUNKI, 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 to 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 on board 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.”