10 entrepreneurs took the stage this week at the OXO2 in London to be celebrated by Deborah Meaden for 16 weeks of hard work and learning in the Design Council Spark Home Innovation Challenge.

A competitive application process, a two-day boot camp, 16 intense weeks of workshops, and a final pitch to an investment panel was all under their belts, but there was one more pitch left before they could finally relax.  In front of an invited audience of investors, Deborah chaired a panel of industry leaders – Rob Law MBE, Founder and CEO of Trunki; Jenny Tooth OBE Chief Executive, UK Business Angels Association; Yasushi Kusume, Innovation & Creative Manager at IKEA and Mark Elliott, business coach – for the final pitch presentations. Each finalist had two minutes to pitch their ideas and some tough questions were asked by the panel.  They all did brilliantly and the relief that it was over and the pride that they had presented was evident.  Now they could enjoy the evening networking with design industry leaders, investors and previous finalists.

From 19 to 70, from across the country and from different backgrounds, there was huge diversity in this year’s cohort who had used design to turn their ideas into products to help people live well at home.  Deborah warmly welcomed and congratulated all of them and announced that the awardees of additional funding from the £200k prize fund were Ben and Luke from Koa, who are reinventing the Duvet cover; Esher N’jie, designer of post-surgery underwear and Jennifer Lake, designer of Bug Grip. 

Deborah Meaden & Sarah Weir with the Design Council Spark Awardees

The focus of this year’s programme has been making life easier in and around the home and is exemplified by the partnership with Alzheimer’s Society. This year Hemal Dias, designer of a self-stabilising spoon, was awarded their portion of the prize fund.

“We recognise that it’s important to encourage and support innovation. At Alzheimer’s Society our partnership with Design Council means that we can encourage better, more inclusive design to help people with dementia live more independent lives.”

Colin Capper, Head of Research Development and Evaluation, Alzheimer’s Society

Deborah became involved with Design Council after realising that everybody she did business with was using design in some way, whether they knew it or not, she said. “We need to remind people that they design every day.” As Deborah pointed out, lots of people have ideas, but most of them give up in the beginning. The Spark programme propels its participants forwards by providing expertise, encouragement and focus.

“Design Council Spark is as much about celebrating drive and determination to make life better by design, as it is about the products that are created. I would like to congratulate all our dedicated finalists on their incredible achievements to date and wish them every success in the future.”

Sarah Weir OBE, Chief Executive Design Council

Design Council Spark is a support and funding programme designed to help you turn your bright idea into a commercially successful product.  If you’re interested in partnering with us or finding out more about the programme, please get in touch.

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