Innovate UK unveil Britain’s best young innovators


Innovate UK announce the winners of its Ideas Mean Business Awards – 24 young British innovators with business ideas that tackle problems from urban overcrowding and unaffordable housing, to sustainable femcare and even the plastic polluting the world’s oceans.


June 4th, 2018, London: Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, announces the winners of its inaugural Ideas Mean Business Awards –  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.


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.


The campaign supports the government’s modern Industrial Strategy, which aims to break down the barriers that prevent this new talent from growing.


Science Minister Sam Gyimah explains: We are a nation of innovators and inventors and these Innovate UK awards showcase some of the greatest young talent we have in this country. We have committed a big increase in the amount we as a country invest in R&D – from 1.7% today to 2.4% by 2027. This could see an additional £80 billion spent on developing the ideas of tomorrow and supporting the next generation of disrupters and entrepreneurs.’


Meet the young people stepping-up to solve problems

In the modern Industrial Strategy the government identified four Grand Challenges which are changing the world, but which have enormous potential for the UK economy. From our housing to our health, from local communities to the environment, we know these complex challenges will impact our future. Unlike the generations that have come before them, today’s young people seem more driven by their passion to be a part of positive change.[1] Over half of the Ideas Mean Business winners seek to solve a societal problem[2]; from reducing sanitation waste by 97%, to distilling the tonnes of microplastics from our oceans, removing toxins from hair care products and transforming the way we sleep, drive and even game. In backing the incredible ingenuity, enterprise and determination of these 24 young winners, Innovate UK are helping to write the next chapter of the economy – and helping make the world a better place.


Removing barriers to engage the disengaged

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[3] and more than half (54%) would like to run their own company,[4] just 8% describe themselves as entrepreneurial.[5] The  findings also revealed that a lack of funding[6], limited access to support[7] and the sense that setting-up a business is too daunting [8] are key barriers for young people looking to take an idea to the next level.


The aim of the campaign was to close this critical gulf between young people’s ideas and their commercial opportunities and to unearth the future innovators, creators and entrepreneurs.


Challenging assumptions and unveiling ambition

For many years, young people have felt held back by limiting social stereotypes perpetuated by negative media articles[9]. This is coupled with their perception that the business sector is unwelcoming and impossible to infiltrate[10]. In an effort to challenge these assumptions, Innovate UK, The Prince’s Trust and SBTV have created seven compelling film shorts. These tell the story of six Ideas Mean Business winners; ordinary young people, with extraordinary ambitions who each share the “can-do” spirit the UK has been built upon. From the humble beginnings of an idea, to the many hurdles jumped and challenges navigated; the early mornings, late nights, the internal fights, the moments of frustration and – of course – success. The films show where these young minds see themselves going and how business in Britain is evolving to make space for them.


Professor Sir Mark Walport, UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive said: ‘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.’


Jamal Edwards MBE, Founder of SBTV: Business in Britain is changing and, today more so than even before, youth is an asset. Most young Britons don’t see running their own company as an option – although they’d like to. Ideas Mean Business is here to transform that; to break down barriers, to show young people that it doesn’t matter where they come from, it’s about where they’re going. Ideas Mean Business is about paving the way for a new wave of innovators – ordinary people, with extraordinary ambitions.’


Nick Stace, UK Chief Executive, The Prince’s Trust commented: ‘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.’


[1] Most young people are quite or very concerned about the issues in the news. 73%  are concerned about the environment, 69% about healthcare, 67% about climate change and 66% about global poverty; Innovate UK, ‘Ideas mean business: Views on innovation among young, disadvantaged adults.’

[2] 15 / 24 of the winners (63%) seek to directly solve a societal problem they’ve observed. Ideas Mean Business campaign results, 2018.

[3] 39% of young people have ideas for products and services they think they could sell; Innovate UK, ‘Ideas mean business: Views on innovation among young, disadvantaged adults.’

[4] 54% young people would like to run their own company; Innovate UK, Ideas mean business: ‘Ideas mean business: Views on innovation among young, disadvantaged adults.’

[5] Just 8% of young people describe themselves as entrepreneurial; Innovate UK ‘Ideas mean business: Views on innovation among young, disadvantaged adults.’

[6] The main barrier for young people to starting their own business is the lack of money (79%, 86% among those interested in starting a business); Innovate UK, ‘Ideas mean business: Views on innovation among young, disadvantaged adults.’

[7] 71% of young people feel they would need a lot of support to start their own business; Innovate UK, ‘Ideas mean business: Views on innovation among young, disadvantaged adults.’

[8] The idea of setting up a business is too daunting for 54% of young people; Innovate UK, ‘Ideas mean business: Views on innovation among young, disadvantaged adults.’

[9] Almost eighty percent (79%) of young people feel that adults see them in a negative light; Youth Media Agency Pilot Survey, November 2011. 76% of press coverage of young people is negative; Children and Young People Now, 2009.

[10] Four out of five (82%) young people think the business sector is difficult to access; Innovate UK, Ideas mean business: Views on innovation among young, disadvantaged adults.’