The Young Innovator Award winners have been announced by Innovate UK and The Prince’s Trust, and five of these young innovators have ideas that are designed to help disabled people lead more independent lives.
The Award programme will be supporting 64 young people in total after receiving a hugely increased response last year. These winners will each receive a £5,000 grant, one-on-one business coaching and an allowance to cover living costs.
The five young innovators looking to improve the lives of disabled people are:
- Michelle Best (28 years old), Gainsborough, Lincolnshire – founder of Blossom & Best – her daughter’s struggle with incontinence inspired her to design and produce innovative handmade disability clothing for children and teenagers with disabilities or medical conditions, including Magic Pants, which help remove some of the stigma of incontinence.
- Kate Walker (24 years old), Loughborough – who used her dissertation project to design and manufacture a prosthetic that is able to grow with children, unlike any other prosthetic available on the market. ExpHand Prosthetics provides affordable, life-changing upper limb prosthetics that give children their independence back.
- Pete Barr (25 years old) from London whose Enayball visual arts tool attaches to a wheelchair or table and enables anyone with a physical disability, including those with paralysis, to draw, paint or create independently.
- Diana Kviatkovskaja, Bristol – founder of Chisel Robotics. Diana has created a state-of-the-art wearable device and an app, that can be used with any prosthetic leg for lower limb amputees. This will eventually allow an amputee to have maximum control over their mobility and quality of life.
- Disability activist Lucy Watts (27 years old), Thundersley in Essex – who is developing an e-learning platform to educate and empower disabled, unwell or caring individuals. Lucy will use people’s lived experience of illness, disability and care to help others navigate the system, including preparing for applications and reviews.
Commenting on their award and project, Michelle Best said: “My daughter Yasmin suffers from urinary and faecal incontinence. I understand the challenges and pain faced by parents of children with disabilities. They struggle to find suitable clothes in mainstream markets. I applied for the programme to help take my business to the next level and start manufacturing my products.”
The Young Innovators Awards recognise young people from across the UK with great business ideas who have the potential to become successful entrepreneurs and future leaders in innovation. Following an unprecedented level of entries, with an 87% increase in applications year-on-year, 64 young people have started the new year with a boost after getting the coveted award, double the number of award winners/recipients of previous years. With recent research showing over a third of 18 to 34 year olds want to launch an independent enterprise in 2021, compared to 28% of 35 to 54 year olds, it’s even more important the support is available to those who want to venture into starting a business.
The programme is also set to continue awarding young people from diverse backgrounds until at least 2023. This year, 49% of the winners are female; nearly a third are Black, Asian or from an ethnic minority background; 17% have a disability and the projects cover all regions across the UK.
From a way to help stroke survivors on the road to rehabilitation to support for parents to protect their children online, all of this year’s Young Innovators have ideas that promise to address current challenges. Ideas this year span everything from technology to physical and mental health and from sustainability to fashion.
Emily Nott, Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at Innovate UK says: “With 2020 proving to be an incredibly difficult year, maintaining our focus on Young Innovators was a priority for Innovate UK since finding the great entrepreneurial minds of the future is more important than ever. Working alongside this year’s winners, Innovate UK will help them grow and develop their business idea to make the world a better, and more innovative place. We can’t wait to see what they achieve this year.”
Amanda Solloway Science Minister said: “While the past year has brought significant challenges for us all, it has also shone a light on the best of British ingenuity, with young people across the country harnessing their entrepreneurial spirit to help the UK respond to these challenges.
“From mobile apps supporting our brilliant NHS staff to online mentoring tools helping graduates find employment, the inspiring business ideas we are backing today will help to unleash our next generation of innovators as we build back better from the pandemic.”
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