A biodegradable tent, a magnetic gas bottle monitor, an inflatable incubator for premature babies, and a medical device for kidney dialysis have been hailed as the UK’s brightest inventions by young entrepreneurs.
The Royal Academy of Engineering has named the UK’s most talented technology start-ups, run by 16-25-year olds, as part of its Launchpad Competition, which connects young entrepreneurs with mentors, and offers training and networking opportunities alongside a £15,000 prize.
James Roberts, a 23-year old product design student from Loughborough University, has designed a simple, low-cost inflatable incubator to help reduce mortality rates in premature babies across the developing world. More than one in 10 babies around the globe are born prematurely, resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths each year but 75pc of these could be avoided with basic incubation technology, according to the World Health Organisation.
“It’s weird to think of how many lives this is going to save,” Mr Roberts said of his invention, which also picked up the Dyson award last year. “In 10 years’ time, if I meet a kid who survived because of one of my incubators, that will be mind-blowing.”
Amanda Campbell, 23, was selected for the shortlist because of her invention, which aims to solve the problem of abandoned tents at music festivals. Over 100,000 tents go to landfill sites each year in the UK alone, causing environmental damage and resulting in a multi-million-pound clean-up bill for organisers.
“I’ve been working at festivals for eight years and so I see the aftermath; a sea of tents left behind that end up going to landfill,” said Ms Campbell, an architecture graduate.
She found a way to solve the problem by creating the world’s first fully compostable, plant-based tent, which biodegrades within 120 days. Ms Campbell had to completely redesign the traditional tent structure to incorporate the new materials but hopes that her £50 invention will be bought by the one in five festival-goers that plan to leave their tents behind.
A monitoring device for gas bottles has been designed by George Edwards, 19, which connects to an app and aims to put an end to gas wastage. An estimated 60m gas bottles are used in Europe’s leisure industry for everything from barbecues to yachts. Some 900m bottles are used per annum across India, while 96pc of Brazilians use bottled gas for everyday cooking.
“Because gas bottles are heavy, people never know how full they are, so they take them back with gas in the bottom,” said Mr Edwards. “That means a lot of waste.” His magnetic device sends accurate notifications when gas is running low and the invention has already caught the eye of Sir Richard Branson.
The Virgin billionaire is in early-stage investment negotiations with the start-up, Mr Edwards claimed. “He likes that by using data we can make things much more efficient and make a difference to peoples lives,” he said.
Sorin Popa, 25, has invented a new technology that could allow patients worldwide to receive kidney dialysis without invasive surgery. Stent Tek is pioneering a new way to use a small covered tube known as a ‘stent graft’ to connect the vessels in almost any part of the arm, through needle-sized punctures, elimnating the issues found with traditional dialysis, and surgeons could eventually employ Stent Tek’s innovation as an alternative to open-heart surgery for coronary bypass operations.
Mr Popa has already won a £1m grant to develop the technology in partnership with Imperial College London and the company is aiming to bring the technology to the market by 2018 where it could save the NHS an estimated £45m per year.
The overall Launchpad Competition winner will be selected on 29th September where each finalist will each pitch their businesses to a judging panel made up of Fellows of the Academy and other engineering entrepreneurs. In addition to membership of the Enterprise Hub, the winner will receive the JC Gammon Award – a trophy and £15,000.
“This year’s finalists are testament to the fantastic ideas that the younger generation is capable of,” said Ian Shott CBE, Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering. “We believe that these innovations have mass-market potential.”
Originally published on the 12th of September 2015