Leicester innovation front and centre at regional awards

Members of the EarthSense team pose with their award for Innovator of the Year.

The best innovators, inventors and developers from across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland were celebrated at the 2021 LeicestershireLive Innovation Awards on Tuesday evening, jointly sponsored by the University of Leicester, De Montfort University and Morningside Pharmaceuticals. 

University research and enterprise was recognised with a number of awards, including two for Leicester spinout EarthSense, the air quality monitoring experts – including the prestigious ‘Innovator of the Year’ prize – plus recognition for Redshift Associates, a start-up company working with the University to provide a structured consultancy service for applications and knowledge transfer of space technology, data and services into diverse new business areas.

There was also acknowledgement of the role that Space Park Leicester will play in driving innovation in the region. The research, enterprise and education cluster, developed by the University with a number of partners, seeks to bring together cutting-edge space research and business.

The awards ceremony took place at the neighbouring National Space Centre, and was hosted by former Gadget Show presenter, TV personality and author Jason Bradbury.

A Lifetime Achievement Award, also sponsored by the University of Leicester, was presented to Richard Freeman of Coalville-based Zeeko, which builds precision polishing machines for optics and other complex surfaces.

In 2019, machinery made by Zeeko was used to help build two cameras which captured fresh pictures of Apollo 11’s historic lunar landing site.

Professor Nishan Canagarajah, President and Vice-Chancellor, presented the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award to Richard Freeman of Zeeko.

Professor Philip Baker, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise at the University of Leicester, said: “We have been honoured to once again be a joint headline and category sponsor for these important awards, and it is thrilling to see so many University links and partners recognised among the deserving winners – and particularly delighted to see EarthSense, a University of Leicester spin-out, selected as the Innovator of the Year.

“I am proud of the University’s proactive role and track record in driving research, innovation and enterprise across the globe, but it is our work with partners and collaborators right here in our region that is especially important – and we feel honoured to be able to contribute to the continued success and growth of our local business communities as true Citizens of Change.

“From the terrific work of our Leicester Innovation Hub to accelerator schemes across the University, we are committed to supporting innovation in all its forms.

“We are especially excited by our continued work with a number of regional, national and international partners to assert Leicester’s place as a high growth hub for space research and industry in the UK through Space Park Leicester, and look forward to seeing the future benefits of the innovation which we support.”

The full list of winners from the 2021 LeicestershireLive Innovation Awards includes:

  • Innovation in Services, sponsored by Furnley House – EarthSense
  • Innovation in Design – Leta-lux
  • Innovation in Education and Training – DMU e-Parasitology Project
  • Innovation in Construction – 3D Concrete Printing (Loughborough University)
  • Digital Innovation of the Year, sponsored by De Montfort University – BrainBerry
  • Innovation in Technology, sponsored by De Montfort University – Tzuka
  • Innovation in Schools – Woodbrook Vale School
  • Medical and Health Innovator of the Year, sponsored by Morningside Pharmaceuticals – Hive Composites
  • Innovation in Manufacturing and Engineering – Flotec
  • University Student Innovation – BeoBia
  • Innovation in Space, sponsored by the University of Leicester – Redshift Associates Ltd
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by the University of Leicester – Richard Freeman (Zeeko)
  • Innovator of the Year, sponsored by the University of Leicester – EarthSense

Adam Moss, the Leicester, Coventry and Northants editor for LeicestershireLive parent company Reach plc, said the quality of innovators across the region was second-to-none.

He said: “Once again it’s great to be celebrating people and business driving innovation in Leicester.

“This country has a massive reputation for driving innovation and invention – which is something that has played a crucial part in getting us through the pandemic. Although not quite out the other side yet, that spirit of discovery has helped drive many of the advances that are slowly helping our lives get back to normal.

“I hope that many of the winners of our awards will go on to make future discoveries just as significant as the ones that have been making global headlines in the fight against COVID-19.

“And it’s apt that the awards should be presented at the National Space Centre because of its proximity to the new Leicester Space Park which has been built next to it, as well as the incubator facilities at the neighbouring Dock.

“Those facilities, and others connected to Leicester, De Montfort and Loughborough universities, have been key in supporting the growth of our nation. Long may that continue.”