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21 May 2008 PR 08/64

First ever Gatsby Awards boost UK’s innovative sports concepts

Four British companies have won a national competition to find the UK’s most innovative sports concepts. The prestigious Gatsby Innovation Awards will enable the inventors of a heated football goalkeeping glove, golf putter grip, mountain bike front forks and a portable hydration monitor to work with experts from Loughborough University Sports Technology Institute. The inventors will have access to the UK’s leading specialist sports research facilities and guidance from the University’s business development experts.

The winners were announced during celebrations for East Midlands innovation (i.Festival), where they met Simon Woodroffe, the charismatic founder of the global restaurant brand, Yo! Sushi.

Back row, left to right : Mike Carr, Executive Director of Business Services at emda; Professor Mike Caine, Director of the Loughborough University Sports Technology Institute; and Geoff Parsons, Director of By Design Group and former Olympic athlete

Front row, left to right: Anna Seddon of Loughborough University’s Enterprise Office; Gatsby Innovation Award winner Leon Marsh; Simon Woodroffe, founder of Yo! Sushi restaurants; and Gatsby Innovation Award winner Dave Cleaver

Former professional footballer Darren Heyes has designed the Katz (Keepers Agility Technology Zone) Keeper heated goalkeeping glove with novel technology to aid blood flow to warm the hands and enhance performance. After a goalkeeping career with clubs including Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United, Darren gained qualifications in sports science and marketing and now runs a successful football coaching business. The Gatsby award will enable the prototype Katz Keeper glove to undergo detailed testing in Loughborough’s thermal environment laboratories.

PGA Coach Philip Howard Gazeley has designed the 2 Thumb Putter Grip to help golfers achieve better putting accuracy by encouraging a natural stance where the shoulders are kept parallel. Manufactured by GolfPride, the world’s largest grip manufacturer, and used by high profile PGA golfers and amateurs, the innovative grip will benefit from independent validation by Loughborough experts to strengthen its marketing claims.

Keen mountain biker Dave Cleaver has developed mountain bike front forks with innovative modular design using carbon composite / aluminium offering enhanced strength and performance over products of welded construction. In 2004 Dave co-founded Tarty Bikes, now the UK’s leading independent retailer specialising in biketrials mountain bikes, with fellow Loughborough Sports Technology graduate, Adam Read. Having helped manufacturers improve bike component design during this time, Dave has launched Inspired Bicycles Ltd, to focus on developing his own innovations including the front fork concept that will undergo stress testing and prototyping at Loughborough.

Leon Marsh of iNova Design is developing a portable hydration monitor, initially aimed at the elite athlete, where dehydration can seriously affect performance. No such device is currently available for use during sport, as the most accurate way to assess hydration involves invasive tests in a controlled laboratory setting. Having worked as a designer for leading mobile telecommunications and sporting goods brands, Leon is refining a second stage prototype for in-depth physiological testing at Loughborough.

“As specialists in the commercial development of design-led innovation, with a track record in partnering leading brands, Loughborough University Sports Technology Institute is well-placed to support these dynamic early stage companies,” says Institute Director Professor Mike Caine.
“We look forward to providing specialist support and independent validation to strengthen the commercial prospects of their innovative products.”

The Gatsby Innovation Awards are funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, in partnership with Loughborough University Sports Technology Institute, a £15M initiative with emda, The East Midlands Development Agency, to enhance research, innovation and enterprise in the sport and leisure sector and develop cutting edge technology to support future British champions. 

The second round of the Gatsby Innovation Awards opens in July. Lone inventors and small to medium sized companies registered in the UK are welcome to apply. Any stage of novel sports concept (footwear / apparel / equipment) will be considered, provided a strong case for its commercial potential can be made. Further details available at:


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Notes for editors:

  1. Loughborough University Sports Technology Institute (http://wwwwww.sports-technology.com) has an international reputation for its work with global brands including adidas, Callaway Golf, Canterbury of New Zealand, Head, Umbro, New Balance, Nike, Reebok and Sports Direct International (Dunlop Slazenger) on the design, simulation, testing and manufacture of sports equipment. Sited on Loughborough’s Science and Enterprise Park, the Institute benefits from synergies with the University’s sports scientists and its unique concentration of elite athletes, world-class sports facilities and strategic partners including UK Sport and the English Institute of Sport.
  2. The Gatsby Charitable Foundation (http://www.gatsby.org.uk) is one of the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts. It is an endowed grant-making trust and its Trust Deed states that it has general charitable objectives. Trustees can therefore give money to any charitable cause. Over more than 30 years of grant making, the Trustees have chosen to concentrate their support in a limited number of fields of activity. One such field is the encouragement of technology transfer between universities and industry.
  3. Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research, strong links with industry and unrivalled sporting achievement.

    It is a member of the esteemed 1994 Group – a set of internationally recognised, research intensive universities – and has a reputation for the relevance of its work. Its degree programmes are highly regarded by professional institutions and businesses, and its graduates are consistently targeted by the UK’s top recruiters.

    Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

    In the 2007 National Student Survey, the University was voted fourth in the UK, with 23 out of 29 of Loughborough’s subject areas being ranked in the top ten for overall satisfaction. Loughborough is also ranked in the top fifteen of UK universities in national league tables. It was named winner of the 2006 and 2007 Times Higher award for the UK’s Best Student Experience and winner of the 2007 award for Outstanding Support for Overseas Students. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes – an achievement bettered by no other university.

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