A wood substitute made from industrial potato waste has seen the innovator behind it pick up the title of the UK’s most promising young engineering entrepreneur. Rowan Minkley, co-founder and CEO of Chip[s] Board, received the award from the Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Hub on 22 November. He also received a £15,000 prize.
The special event was the final of the Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Hub’s fifth annual Launchpad Competition, an initiative set up to encourage more young people to start and grow their own engineering businesses.
The 23 year old was chosen by a panel of experts and business leaders including Elspeth Finch MBE, founder and CEO of IAND and Ian Ritchie CBE FREng, information technology entrepreneur.
Rowan’s innovation is a wood substitute made from industrial potato waste, designed to be an eco-friendly alternative to MDF. As well as its product features, the judges were particularly impressed with Rowan’s thoughtful and ambitious plan that is founded on the principles of a sustainable circular economy.
He will receive the JC Gammon Award, which provides £15,000 of funding and membership to the Enterprise Hub to kick-start his entrepreneurial career.
Rowan Minkley, co-founder and CEO, said of his Launchpad Competition win:
“It is a real privilege to be this year’s Launchpad Competition winner; it is a fantastic validation of my idea. Gaining membership to the Enterprise Hub will give Chip[s] Board a vital financial boost, as well as the mentorship and the expertise to scale up my business. I’m both grateful and proud to be joining this network of world-class engineers.”
A separate People’s Choice Award was presented following an audience vote and online voting in the run up to the event. It was won by Nate Macabuag founder of Mitt, which produces comfortable and adjustable prostheses that users can fit themselves, creating a cheaper and more accessible solution for patients. He will now receive £1,000 as well as membership of the Enterprise Hub.
This year’s event marks five years of the Enterprise Hub supporting young engineering entrepreneurs. Since the first award in 2013, the competition has helped innovators bring a variety of innovations to market such as mOm, mobile infant incubators design for use in remote parts of the world. Since winning the JC Gammon Award back in 2015, mOm founder James Roberts’ business has received £630,000 in seed funding and is now preparing to enter clinical trials.
Professor Andy Hopper CBE FREng FRS FIET, chair of judging panel for the Launchpad Competition congratulated Rowan and said:
“From my experience, having a great engineering idea just isn’t enough; to successfully scale a company you need the right contacts and business skills to match. Having access to the right kind of training and the vast experience of the Academy’s Fellowship is a truly powerful thing that pays dividends for those starting out. The Enterprise Hub is in a unique position give independent and realistic advice to the best entrepreneurial engineers who want to commercialise their world-class ideas and scale their businesses. It is immensely exciting to help entrepreneurs with such promise meet their full potential. Congratulations to Rowan, I wish him the best of luck as he embarks on this exciting journey.”
New research by the Enterprise Hub – released to coincide with the Launchpad Competition – found a fear of failure is holding back young people from starting their own business.
A fear of business failure is significantly higher among young people. More than two fifths (42%) gave this as a reason for not turning an idea into a business, compared to just over a quarter (27%) of 45 to 54 year olds. The findings echo separate research from the Enterprise Hub that found that young engineers were especially fearful of failure; over half (56%) cited this as one of their main reasons for not starting a business.
Since 2013 the Enterprise Hub has worked to discover, celebrate and support the country’s next generation of brilliant engineering entrepreneurs, to give them the skills and confidence to turn their ideas into successful businesses.
The two other finalists were:
Connell McLaughlin, the 19-year old founder of Route Reports:
Route Reports provides transport-based Internet of Things devices to predict and fix hazards such as pot-holes and trees. The software can analyse and predict data in real time, control systems remotely, and solve issues more effectively and at a lower cost for trains, buses and infrastructure.
Rafaël Michali, the 23 year-old founder of Caura:
A graduate of Imperial College London and co-founder of Caura, a next generation personal trainer that unlocks individual molecular signatures, to give an instant, real time feedback on what to sportsmen need to perform at their best.
The winner of the Launchpad Competition receives the JC Gammon award, which is supported by the Gammon family in memory of their father, who was able to succeed in civil engineering having won a scholarship and bursary to fund his initial education.
For more information on the Launchpad programme visit https://www.raeng.org.uk/grants-and-prizes/support-for-entrepreneurs/launchpad-competition.