Design Council Spark fund finalists revealed

Written by: Tom Austin-Morgan | Published:
The FormBox vacuum former by Benjamin Radford of Mayku, one of the finalists revealed fo the Design Council's Spark Fund

Design Council has launched the first ever Design Council Spark accelerator programme to develop exciting new products with up-and-coming inventors. The eight inventions are wide-ranging, from products for health to products for horses.

A fund of £150k will be invested across the teams to help bring the products to market, as well as mentoring totalling hundreds of hours of support over 20 weeks.

The Design Council Spark finalists are:

1. the first radically new horse saddle for 2,000 years

Trace Ward is co-founder and CEO of Ergon Equine. She has designed a new kind of horse saddle with premium endurance and optimal load distribution. It reduces pressure under the saddle, improving the horse's comfort and performance.

Trace comes has worked in the horse racing industry and ridden competitively. She even trained horses for the Warner Brother's film The Last Samurai. On being part of Spark, Trace said: "This is a fantastic opportunity for us to demonstrate how innovative rural craft industries such as the saddlery industry can be"

2. Desktop factories brought to you by Mayku

Benjamin Redford, founder of Mayku, aims to disrupt global manufacturing infrastructure by creating a distributed, localised network through the provision of desktop making tools.

His first two products are small-scale versions of mass manufacturing processes which will help makers, hobbyists and DIYer's to create their own mini production lines. The first of these is FormBox - a compact and easy to use vacuum former that can be used to make anything from jelly moulds to professional-grade product packaging. The second is RotoBox, a simple desktop rotational moulding machine. It makes hollow objects such as eggs, rubber ducks and piggy banks.

3. An illuminating prayer mat

Soner Ozenc and his team have invented a prayer mat that lights up when facing Makkah called El Sajjadah.

Soner is making the most of Spark to start growing his business: "The grant will help us financially to progress with our 'design to manufacture' process and the mentors will literally hold our hands to safely and confidently go through this process."

4. No more earache

Father and son pilot and aircraft engineer team, Bill and Paul Bradley, specialise in aeronautical services, sales, marketing and management. They developed 'Aerbuddies' following a new aeromedical discovery they unearthed during some commissioned scientific research.

'Aerbuddies' is a passenger comfort product that alleviates the symptoms of ear pain experienced by some passengers during flights on commercial passenger aircraft, the cause of which is directly related to the pressurisation systems on board.

5. The connected product

Avril O'Neil and John Nussey are the founders of ONN – a multidisciplinary design studio that specialises in product design and development, innovation and experimental electronics.

They are developing a connected doorbell. This is just the beginning for John and Avril who want this to be the start of a whole range of products.

6. The zip of the future

Sid Edwards has invented the RipSeam Fastener. It's an alternative fastener for textiles, home furnishings and a lot more besides. It utilises existing technology in an innovative way to overcome problems associated with traditional fastening methods, such as issues with grip.

Sid is working with Spark to get this inclusive design off the ground. He said: "It's a magnificent achievement to have gained formal recognition of the merits of my invention. It has huge potential to positively impact on the lives of people in Britain and throughout the world."

7. An umbrella that you won't break or lose

The Drop is a pop-up umbrella, invented by Royal College of Art graduate Ayca Dundar, which rethinks the complex and fragile design of traditional umbrellas.

Drop-pop's sustainable design consists of only six parts and has a supple structure, so it flexes during strong winds. It also closes into a compact flat disk for ease of transport. All in all, Ayca hopes Drop-pop will result in fewer lost and broken umbrellas on the streets on rainy days.

8. Compost turner

Adam Jackson is founder of Grow Innovations Ltd. He has invented a conical- shaped corkscrew device called Grow. It will make turning and mixing compost a much easier task.


As well as working with the team at Design Council, the finalists will have access to a specially convened network of mentors. It includes entrepreneurs such as Claire Mitchell, inventor of Chillipeeps and Ben Davies, MD at RODD, as well senior representatives from SeymourPowell, MAP and Kinneir Dufort and experts in IP and manufacturing.

The eight teams were selected from over 330 entries. The entries were submitted from across the UK, with almost the same amount from entrants over 55 as there were under 25.

The Design Council's brief was looking for product prototypes or ideas that demonstrated market need, business viability and the technical feasibility to be developed within 20 weeks – with the aim of sparking the next generation of product inventors in the UK.

Marion Gillet, Product Development Manager at Design Council, said: "This is proving to be a really rich and exciting programme because of its diversity; we've got inventors from a range of backgrounds working in a range sectors. It shows that product invention in the UK really is alive and well and ready to be nurtured - that's why Design Council Spark is so important."


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