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Four young entrepreneurs from Wales win national award

Jacob McCarthy

FOUR of this year’s Young Innovator Award winners, announced today by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, are from Wales. The winners have started the New Year with a boost after winning a coveted award for their new business projects.

From a fully autonomous, robotic vessel to help improve weather forecasting and climate change research to a low-cost electric aircraft so more people can pursue aviation as a career or hobby, the Wales innovators promise to make the world a better place.

Young people across the UK are showing a growing appetite for innovation and entrepreneurialism. The Young Innovators competition received almost 700 applicants this year, up 25% on the previous year. The exceptional standard of ideas led Innovate UK to award over 50% more winners this year (94 vs 63), making this the largest cohort of Young Innovators to-date.

The Wales winners will take a share of the £1.25 million prize fund. They join a cohort of 94 young people aged 18 to 30 with business ideas that could change the world and will benefit from a £5,000 grant, one-on-one business coaching and an allowance to cover living costs. Winners in Wales include:

•  Anahita Laverack (22 years old), a keen sailor from Victoria Dock, Caernarfon, who has created Oshen, a fully autonomous, robotic vessel that resembles a mini-sailboat, to capture live data from our oceans from wind to temperature, waves and currents. The data promises to help improve everything from fishing to weather forecasting and climate change research.

•  Jacob McCarthy (23 years old), from Castle View, Caerphilly, whose company, Shield Performance Products, offers a range of motion-tracking sports clothing. The innovative clothing will have sensors that links with an iOS app that evaluates movement and provides a full performance check. Jacob hopes the platform will help prevent injuries by perfecting people’s exercise technique.

•  Jamila La Malfa-Donaldson (30 years old), an Industrial Hemp PhD researcher from Aberystwyth, and founder of PROHEMPOTIC LTD who aims to create healthier and more sustainable diets through hemp food products. Her products use local hemp food ingredients, and are designed for people looking to reduce their meat and dairy consumption.

•  Michael Roberts (28 years old), from Anglesey, North Wales, who has a passion for aircrafts and the engineering behind them. His idea is to develop an electric aircraft that is cheap to manufacture and low cost to operate. He hopes this will allow more people to pursue aviation as a career or hobby.

The Young Innovators Awards recognise young people with great business ideas who have the potential to become successful entrepreneurs and future leaders in innovation. In addition to the awards, Innovate UK delivers workshops and briefing events to provide practical business advice to a network of over 12,500 young people across the UK.

With a clear drive to support underrepresented innovation talent, this year, 46% of the winners are female, 39% are Black, Asian or from another ethnic minority group, and 11% have identified as disabled.

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Commenting on his award and project Shield Performance Products, Jacob McCarthy, said “I am hugely grateful to be part of the next Innovate UK’s Young Innovators Award cohort. It feels like a large weight has been lifted off my shoulders during the crucial product development stages of my business, thanks to the funding and industry mentorship awarded to me. My dream has long been to combine my engineering skills with my passion for fitness in the form of a career but I have struggled to find opportunities to do this. The award will finally help me bring my ideas to life and I hope I can inspire others in a similar way.”

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

Indro Mukerjee, CEO Innovate UK said: “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”.

Secretary of State for Wales, David TC Davies, said: “Many congratulations to the young innovators from Wales on their success! These are our entrepreneurs of the future, who have come up with fantastic ideas and can now get the support they need to take them to the next stage. I’m proud that the UK Government is helping talented young people turn their ideas into reality and drive innovation in Wales.”

Details on all 94 Young Innovators can found here.This year, Innovate UK will be expanding the scope, scale and impact of support available to young innovators. If you’re an inspiring young innovator, check out how Innovate UK could support you here: https://ktn-uk.org/programme/young-innovators/