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Design Council’s new search for product innovation

Applications are now open for Design Council’s Spark 2018 competition. But, before we turn our attentions to the innovations that may astound us in the upcoming programme, it seems timely to reflect on what was a very impressive year for the 2017 event.

Back in May, 10 stand-out ideas were carefully selected from over 250 applications, and the 10 creative minds behind these inventions were then invited to embark upon an intensive 16 week support programme.

Workshops covering everything from financial planning to brand development were delivered to the cohort, along with an initial £15,000 investment and one-to-one mentoring support to help get the creators’ product and service designs off the ground.

And having had a personal role to play this year, it was a fantastic initiative for The Engine Room to be involved in.

Our managing director Lesley Gulliver was invited to sit on the investment panel. This meant she was one of a number of ‘judges’ who had the difficult task of hand-selecting the top 10 entrants from the wealth of applications.

Commenting on the process, she said: “As a leading authority on the use of strategic design to tackle societal challenges, Design Council helps to enable the delivery of positive social, environmental and economic change. The charity’s values echo ours at The Engine Room, so it was great to work with like-minded people who are passionate about using design to improve people’s lives.

“The programme has uncovered some incredible innovations that are not only well-designed, but that will promote greater inclusion too.”

Lesley and The Engine Room’s design director Darren Evans were also responsible for delivering the advice-led brand development workshop for the 10 finalists.

Darren continued: “The products were all so different, from a pair of smart glasses for people with visual impairment to a system that speeds up the growth of plants – the scope of ideas in the room was inspiring. It was great to work alongside these talented individuals as they plan the next steps of their creative journey.”

Spark 2017 was also supported by Arthritis Research UK, with three products selected that specifically benefit people affected by this debilitating condition.

At the end-of-programme ceremony in London’s Shoreditch on 12 September, significant funding was awarded for:

  • Workey – a key attachment that aids the opening of doors, which received extra funding from the Arthritis Research UK fund
  • Drink – a glass holder for wheelchair users
  • CamCup – a reusable cup made from recycled coffee grounds

The following ventures received Highly Commended mentions from the Panel and a funding contribution:

  • Fuzl – a clip and collapse flat-pack furniture range for people who move frequently
  • Detail – a folding bicycle helmet

But now the hunt is on for new design innovations. Lesley concluded: “I really do encourage anyone with even the embryo of a ground-breaking idea, to consider entering the 2018 competition. Hopefully see you next year!”

Full information about the 2017 cohort and the 2018 application process can be found on Design Council’s website.