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Young innovator in Wales given critical boost

  • The Young Innovators Next Steps Awards recognise trailblazing young entrepreneurs, accelerating their business growth to deliver even bigger impact
  • Almost £1m awarded – with each winner given £50,000 to grow and scale their business over the 12-month programme
  • Innovate UK is calling for the next generation of innovators to come forward and apply for their new Diverse Innovators Award

TODAY an Innovator from Wales has been awarded a further boost to their early-stage business by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, through the Young Innovators Next Steps Awards. In recognition of their success with their initial Young Innovators Award this aspiring entrepreneur has won fresh investment to support their future business plans.

Coinciding with the announcement, Innovate UK is launching its biggest and most ambitious programme to tackle underrepresentation in innovation to date, the Diverse Innovators Award. This brand-new programme builds upon the success of the Young Innovators awards. Backed by a £6m budget, it will allow Innovate UK to support even more young entrepreneurs, women founders and other communities who are underrepresented in innovation.

Since winning their first Innovate UK award, the winners have secured further funding from investors, launched products and expanded their teams. They’ve also been recognised with prestigious industry awards and have showcased their work to large audiences within their sectors. With a focus on helping young people take their innovations to the next level, the Young Innovators Next Steps Awards will see each winner receive an additional £50,000 to fuel their growth plans.

The winner from Wales is Alex Newnes (29) from Colwyn Bay, Wales founded PlantSea to develop new materials from seaweed as a sustainable alternative to single-use plastics. The business was born out of Alex and his two friends’ desire to tackle plastic pollution and contribute to a more sustainable future. Since winning his first Award, Alex has produced a range of new prototype materials, secured collaborative grant funding, moved to larger facilities, and expanded his team.

Commenting on his Award and project, Alex said “The business was founded in April 2020 amid the COVID pandemic, by myself and my two friends Rhiannon and Gianmarco. We were each motivated to do something that had a bigger purpose and would make a difference to the wider community. After winning Innovate UK’s Young Innovator Award, I was given invaluable coaching and advice and the grant allowed us to make valuable progress with our business. The Young Innovators Next Steps Award will support us as we approach commercialisation and my long-term goal to prevent 10 million tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.”

The inspirational Next Steps award winners are motivated by a passion for making the world more sustainable and inclusive, while driving the UK’s economy with their innovative and ambitious business ideas.

Other winning ideas include a sustainable drinkware brand producing unique reusable bottles that can be dismantled for cleaning; an online platform that demystifies and streamlines the home buying process, and cutting-edge micro-turbines that allow the water industry to sustainably monitor pipelines.

Inspired by these winners?

One of the UK’s greatest assets is the incredible, diverse talent we have available for innovation. However, whilst talent is evenly distributed, opportunity is not.

Building on the success of the Young Innovators and Women in Innovation programmes, Innovate UK is launching the new Diverse Innovators programme. This £6 million programme aims to uncover hidden talent across the UK. If you have an innovative business idea or a business with big ambitions, you could win financial backing, one-to-one business support, and a package of training, networking and role-modelling opportunities.

Upcoming entrepreneurs can learn more and register their interest in the forthcoming Diverse Innovators Awards, which open on 10 July: https://bit.ly/DiverseInnovatorsNS

Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, Chloe Smith, said:

“To see so many young innovators fizzing with ground-breaking ideas – from reducing food and clothing waste to supporting the blind – is testament to the dynamic spirit of our country. I have no doubt they will inspire the rest of their generation and those that follow.

“This Government will always back enterprise and I’m delighted this funding can help the winners to reap the rewards of their creativity, while growing our economy and improving lives through innovation.”

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

“These young people have managed to turn their brilliant ideas for innovation into successful businesses. Our young innovators have worked tirelessly to realise their ambitions and Innovate UK is proud to have helped them on this journey. Their disruptive innovations will have significant social and economic impacts and I hope that their stories will help many more young people to see that a future career in innovation could be for them.”

Indro Mukerjee, CEO of Innovate UK said:

“Innovate UK is committed to inspiring and supporting the next generation of innovators, as they will play a critical role in the UK’s future economy. The team congratulates the Young Innovators Next Step award winners and looks forward to seeing their businesses develop further.”