Two of this year’s Young Innovator Award winners, announced recently by Innovate UK and The Prince’s Trust, are from Wales. Alex Newnes and Shannon Thomas have started the new year with a boost after winning a coveted award for their new business projects.
The innovators from Wales looking to make the world a better place are:
• Alex Newnes (27 years old, pictured left), Aberystwyth – who is trying to reduce the use of plastic in agriculture. Alex’s company PlantSea is using seaweed produce a bio-plastic film that is fully degradable and non-toxic that could ultimately replace the plastic wrap that is currently used by agriculture for wrapping, packaging and as a mulch film.
• Shannon Thomas (27 years old, pictured right), Pontypridd, South Wales – who was inspired to start a sustainable flower business – Jennie’s Floral Design – after she lost her grandmother Jen, and tried her hand at creating flower arrangements for her funeral.
The winners from Wales, are two of 64 inspiring young people who will receive Young Innovators awards this year, each benefitting from a £5,000 grant, one-on-one business coaching and an allowance to cover living costs. The programme is 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.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.
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.
Commenting on their award and project, Shannon Thomas said, “The traditional supply of flowers in the UK has detrimental effects on the planet at most stages of the chain: air pollution, pesticides, floral foam, wastage and single-use plastic – to name a few. Most people are unaware of where shop bought flowers come from, let alone how bad they are for the planet.”
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.”
If you’re an inspiring young innovator, check out how Innovate UK could support you here: https://ktn-uk.org/programme/young-innovators/