Anthony Camu is on a mission to reinvent mobility for visually impaired people.
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 was inspired to apply to the Young Innovators programme by a previous winner, Kate Walker, who works with him at Loughborough University’s incubator, The Studio. He plans to raise investment through a pre-seed round in early 2022. His ambition is for Theia to reach a £1 billion valuation: “There’s no point trying to start a business if you can’t aim high!”
About the Young Innovators Awards:
In 2017, Innovate UK and The Prince’s Trust commissioned YouGov to carry out independent research with 18- to 30-year-olds who were not in employment, education or training, or in a form of insecure or under-employment. The report explored attitudes towards innovation and entrepreneurship, and found that:
- 2 in 5 young people surveyed (39%) had ideas for products and services they think they could sell
- 54% would like to run their own company
- 82% view the business sector as difficult to access
- only 8% would describe themselves as entrepreneurial
In response to the report’s findings, Innovate UK launched a campaign in partnership with The Prince’s Trust to look for the next generation of innovators: Ideas Mean Business. The campaign was launched at a pop-up coffee shop in London. There, Deborah Meaden, 19-year-old millionaire entrepreneur Ben Towers, and business ambassadors exchanged coffee for innovative ideas and provided attendees with business advice. The campaign then went on the road, sharing advice with aspiring young innovators in Cardiff, Birmingham, and Newcastle. Over 12,000 people got in touch to find out more about the young innovators’ programme. 150 attended 11 regional innovation events across the UK and online, where they received innovative business advice and guidance on applying for support through the programme. 24 winners were selected from across the country to receive:
- one-on-one coaching from an Innovate UK EDGE Innovation Champion
- funding to support the development of their idea
- an allowance to cover living costs
In 2020, new findings from Innovate UK showed that half of the young people in the UK think their age is a barrier to business success, with nearly a third lacking the confidence they need to turn their innovative idea into a reality. The findings were released in March with Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) announcing a £2.2m, Young Innovators Programme in partnership with The Prince’s Trust.
To support the awards, Innovate UK KTN organised online competition briefing events attended by over 8,000 young innovators. The pandemic has significantly impacted young people in the UK due to well documented challenges like disrupted education, declining mental health and delayed careers. However, the pandemic also triggered a surge in entrepreneurialism, resulting in a third of 18- to 34-year-olds wanting to launch an independent enterprise. This appetite for innovation could also be seen in the unprecedented engagement with the Young Innovators programme, which received 1,300 applications over the past two years.
Following a rigorous assessment process, 64 Young Innovators were awarded in 2020 and another 63 in 2021. As a result, by 2023, the Young Innovators programme aims to have awarded more than 200 young people from diverse backgrounds. Diversity and inclusion are at the heart of the programme which forms an integral part of Innovate UK’s 2021-2025 Plan for Action for UK Business Innovation and its commitment to “increase the diversity of upcoming innovation talent and make innovation support more visible, accessible, and inclusive to all.”
In addition to the Young Innovators awards, in August 2020 Innovate UK KTN launched the #IdeasMeanBusiness webinar series, partnering with UK Black Tech, Foundervine, UltraEducation, Like Minded Females, St John’s Innovation Centre, Nicholas Himowicz, Spencer Ayres, and CareerEar. The series, designed to provide practical advice, expert knowledge, and tools for young people, has been viewed by over 2,000 people.
Innovate UK KTN also organises twice yearly bootcamps specifically tailored to support the journey of Young Innovators award holders as well as events to foster peer-to-peer networking and best practice sharing. Moving forward, they will continue to support and nurture young people. We look forward to engaging with the new cohort, the growing alumni network, and the wider community to inspire new generations of diverse innovators.
You can read more about all of the amazing winners of the 2021/22 programme here.
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Inspired? Check out the videos below for hints and tips on how to start your own journey…
Building your network
Growing your idea with a grant
Taking your business to the next level