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Unveiling Britain’s best young innovators

Posted on 06/06/2018

Innovate UK’s 24 "Ideas Mean Business" winners

On Monday 4th June, the winners of Innovate UK’s inaugural Ideas Mean Business Awards were announced –  the culmination of a campaign launched in 2017, in partnership with The Prince’s Trust, to engage young people from diverse backgrounds with the opportunity to take their ideas to the next level.

The campaign was developed in direct response to research conducted in partnership with YouGov – Ideas Mean Business: Views on innovation among young, disadvantaged adults – which revealed that although two in five young people (39%) have ideas for products and services and more than half (54%) would like to run their own company, just 8% describe themselves as entrepreneurial. The findings also revealed that a lack of funding, limited access to support, and the sense that setting up a business is too daunting, are key barriers for young people looking to take an idea to the next level.

Open to 18-30 year olds from a wide range of backgrounds, thousands of young people across the UK responded to the campaign. The 24 winners now have the opportunity to benefit from a bespoke programme of advice, guidance, mentorship and access up to £5,000 financial support.

Shattering stereotypes and changing perceptions of young people from diverse backgrounds, some of the 24 winners are presented through a series of film shorts created by SBTV, the ground-breaking youth organisation. The films challenge long-held cultural assumptions about young people, using footage that captures the raw untold ambition, passion and invention behind Britain’s innovative future.

SBTV and Innovate UK

Professor Sir Mark Walport, UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive

“Young people are creative and ambitious, fired with enthusiasm and driven by a strong social conscience. If we want to maintain the UK as a successful 21st century economy, we must nurture their ambition, fuel that desire to innovate and give them the opportunity to build successful businesses. The Ideas Mean Business competition has done just that and it is clear from the inspirational winners that the UK is home to incredible talent from a diversity of backgrounds with equally diverse aspirations and ideas.”

Nick Stace, UK Chief Executive, The Prince’s Trust

“We know that thousands of young people across the UK would like to start their own business, but it’s often something very simple that holds them back from taking the next step: self-belief. We hope that the stories of our Ideas Mean Business winners highlight what is possible when young people open their minds to the possibilities that confidence can unlock, including funding and – crucially – support from people who know how to help. We are delighted to continue to work in partnership with Innovate UK. Together we can transform lives, and the UK business landscape, for the better.”

How the event unfolded

The 24 winners, all aged between 18 and 30, converged in a cluster of enthusiasm and energy, ready to meet their peers for the first time. There was a strong indication on the evening of how the wider innovation community can benefit from these young innovators and be inspired by their tenacity. The motivation and passion was certainly evident. George Howell, 19yr old founder of Ideal First Car, had persuaded the event organisers to let him change his return rail ticket to enable him to remain in the capital for a series of investor meetings. “I don’t think people started taking me seriously until I was 18” he says. Those potential investors will certainly be taking him seriously now.

Angela McCauley of Raphaella Designs, Carolina Jobb of Smoke and Mirrors and Laura Niehorster of Proud Pads had already swapped social media handles and were discussing co-promotion. This is a generation who know that together is better!

We were delighted to welcome Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation Sam Gyimah who gave an inspiring speech and told the audience “If you do what everyone else does, you get what everyone else gets.” and “we’re a country of innovators and I’m convinced that the next James Dyson is in this room”. He concluded his speech by telling the group “If you succeed, our country succeeds.”  The future is in safe hands.

Dr Ian Campbell, Executive Chair of Innovate UK, reported that over 12,000 young people got in touch about the Young Innovators’ Programme, showing a huge appetite for support. Attention was drawn to the nature of these business propositions with an overwhelming number seeking to solve a societal problem and create positive global change.

Members of the panel discussion offered the award winners advice on a range of topics from start-up and scale up, to looking after their mental health. Professor Tim Vorley of the Innovation Caucus encouraged the winners to “come for the funding, but stay for the support”, noting that the connections, mentorships and networking opportunities afforded by this programme were the real prize. He also reminded them to invest in growth, echoing Dr Ian Campbell’s hope that he would see future applications for Innovate UK funding from the group to enable them to take their ideas to the next level.

You can find out more about all 24 award winners in this brochure.