Digital canes, sustainable textiles, and insects: Alumni start-ups secure Young Innovator Awards

Anthony Camu, Thomas Constant, and Jess Strain will each receive a £5,000 grant, one-on-one business coaching and an allowance to cover living costs.

Industrial Design and Technology graduate Anthony Camu is on a mission to reinvent mobility for visually impaired people supported by LU Inc. The design engineering graduate has always been fascinated by creating tools to make people’s lives easier. His business, Theia Guidance Systems, aims to replace the traditional white canes with an intelligent device the size of a TV remote.

“There has been very little technological advancement outside of canes because of the inherent complexities of walking on pavements,” says Anthony. His device is designed to replicate the functions of a guide dog, such as following paths and avoiding obstacles. It uses a combination of sensors, pathfinding software, and intuitive force-feedback. Anthony is supported by LU Inc. – Loughborough University’s incubator for graduates, academic spinouts and external founders with innovative ideas.

Fellow Industrial Design and Technology graduate Thomas Constant has recently graduated from LU Inc., having raised investment to scale his sustainable insect protein business, Beobia.

Growing up in the countryside, Thomas had always been fascinated by nature and sustainability. When he went to Loughborough University to study industrial design and technology, he was able to marry those passions with his design skills.

“Everything changed when I learned the fantastic benefits of insects, which require a fraction of the land, water and resources compared to traditional protein sources,” says Thomas. He went on to create his first insect-growing pod: a closed-loop system that turns users’ food waste into protein and plant fertiliser.

Jess Strain, who graduated from Loughborough in 2020 with a degree in Textile Design. In her final year of a textile design degree at Loughborough University, she began to research the social and environmental impact of textile materials. She often struggled to find information on where a fibre had been grown, spun, woven, and processed. This was mirrored when she went shopping, with stores offering no details on the supply chain behind their products.

Jess now creates products, including summer hats, tote bags, and soft furnishings, which will offer buyers complete transparency. She plans to use waste fabric, dyed with locally-foraged plant matter.

Now aiming to define her manufacturing process, prototypes and reporting methodology, Jess said: “I want to open the discussion with consumers and enable them to demand more of the high street giants.”

Congratulations to all the recipients.

Find out more about this years’ Young Innovators.