Alumni-founded tech start-ups receive coveted national Young Innovators Awards

The image is split into quarters. Top left is Jamie Kiff and Ryan Scollan, who stand together. Top right is Benjamin Ndubuisi. Bottom left is Andrew Reece. Bottom right is Kate Walker.

Four of this year’s Young Innovator Award winners, announced by Innovate UK and The Prince’s Trust, are high potential tech start-ups founded by Loughborough alumni.

Jamie Kiff and Ryan Scollan, Benjamin Ndubuisi, Andrew Reece, and Kate Walker will each receive a £5,000 grant, one-on-one business coaching and an allowance to cover living costs for the businesses they began with support from Loughborough Enterprise Network.

Jamie Kiff and Ryan Scollan, who both graduated from Loughborough in 2018 with degrees in Sport and Exercise Science, have launched Optimal, an athlete monitoring platform that aims to tackle the physical and mental health crisis in esports and create healthier, happier, and more successful gamers. Last December, Jason Cowman, Head of Athletic Development for IRFU, joined GScience as a scientific advisor.

Benjamin Ndubuisi grew up in Nigeria and moved to the UK in 2015 and he graduated from Loughborough University London with an MSc in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management in 2016. The differences in culture and society he experienced opened his mind to a completely new world of opportunities. His innovation, VING. AI, is a secure currency exchange platform for Africans living in the UK. The exchange takes place via an escrow engine, allowing individuals to find a match and safely exchange currency at mutually agreed rates.

Benjamin explains, “For example, Mr Kayode who works in KPMG in London can exchange £1000 with Mrs Chukwu in Nigeria, whose daughter is doing a degree in Newcastle.”

Alumnus Andrew Reece, who gained a BSc in Ergonomics in 2017, became frustrated with previewing tools available for testing code after he had been programming for almost a decade. Andrew’s innovation, WhiteBox, is a tool for software developers that shows them how their code behaves as they write it in real time. The immediate feedback and explorable representations enable more accurate mental models, fewer bugs and more opportunities to improve programme design.

He said: “Humans are bad at pretending to be computers, so even experienced programmers make many errors as they write code. Debugging these errors with existing tools is like trying to understand a spreadsheet where you can only see one row at a time. It is slow, expensive and reduces programmers’ quality of life.”

Kate Walker, who graduated from Loughborough in 2019 with a degree in Product Design Engineering in 2019, is the creator of ExpHand, a 3D printed prosthetic developed for children 3-10 years old. The prosthetic is adjustable and can grow with a child, giving it a much longer lifespan than other prosthetic products. Kate, who launched her business through the Studio, the University’s graduate start-up programme based in LU Inc., the Incubator on LUSEP.

The Young Innovators Awards recognise young people from across the UK with great business ideas who have the potential to become successful entrepreneurs and future leaders in innovation.

Amanda Solloway, Science Minister, said:

“While the past year has brought significant challenges for us all, it has also shone a light on the best of British ingenuity, with young people across the country harnessing their entrepreneurial spirit to help the UK respond to these challenges … the inspiring business ideas we are backing today will help to unleash our next generation of innovators as we build back better from the pandemic.”

Find out more about this years’ Young Innovators.