Sustainable personal jetpacks; acoustic black holes and truly inclusive cosmetics…all these game-changing innovations – and many more – were on show at Venturefest South’s Festival of Innovation.

Innovators, start-ups and small businesses were given a great platform to showcase their products and services at this year’s event, where over £1billion of opportunities were on offer from VFS partners through support, funding and investment.

There was also plenty of inspiration to accelerate their success on offer from the South’s business leaders attending last month’s event at The Ageas Bowl, Southampton.

VSF21 Awards Head Judge Adrian Braine, one of the South’s most respected business innovation leaders and an expert in technology acceleration, called on entrepreneurs to ‘keep pushing ahead’ as the key to reaching their goals.

Adrian, who is Founder of Root21, which accelerates growth for technology companies, said: “It was fantastic to see so much innovation going on in the region and that all the innovators were so passionate about what they do.

“My advice to them all is build a solid business model and then keep going. In my opinion one of the key attributes for a successful entrepreneur is persistence, they should keep pushing!

“The VFS21 judging panel looked at how well they explained their business and the potential for investment. These are crucial because if you can’t get people to understand what you do and why, you’re really lost and most businesses need investment at some stage, so it has to appeal to investors.”

A number of innovators took home highly-prized awards from the annual event – Millie Flemington-Clare from Human Beauty was named Open Mic Pitching Champion 2021.

Millie created Human Beauty as a truly inclusive cosmetics brand with like-minded people with and without disabilities. It champions accessible design, incorporating features such as braille to ensure absolutely everyone can experience the power of make-up and its ability to boost self-esteem.

Millie said: “I think the judges chose me as the Open Mic Pitching Champion due to my unique story of my battle with my health and my passion for beauty. My frustration at the lack of diversity in the industry led me to create a brand that is inclusive for all. I also think I was chosen as my brand and product is disruptive and innovative.”

VFS21’s Sustainable Innovation Leader award went to Emily Baulf from OXTO Energy, a global energy storage technology provider based in England, Europe and North America. She said: “World energy systems are being forced to adapt to the demands of climate change, population growth, electrification and globalisation. Our flywheel energy storage systems could be the key enabling device in facilitating this transition – and not just for wealthy nations, but globally.

“VFS21 was a great event with so many incredible minds gathered in the same place. From the conversations we had with judges, there was a lot of focus on the applications of our technology, which are so diverse, because we can truly provide services for anyone who requires electricity.”

Antony Quinn and Matt Denton at Maverick Aviation won the Innovator of the Year award for the company’s Advanced Aerial Mobility Systems, including the Maverick® Aviation jetpack which is hands-free, uses sustainable fuels, and is safe and easy to fly.

Antony said: “I think the judges recognised the novel way we have focused on customers’ needs when approaching the age-old challenge of human flight. We have resolved many of the problems faced by other pioneers in this field and our innovative and sustainable approach has led to business growth.”

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The Early Stage Innovator award went to Jordan Cheer at Acoustic Black Holes, being developed at Southampton University.

Jordan said: “Acoustic Black Holes (ABHs) can be integrated into a beam or plate-like structure and provide lightweight, effective, damping. I believe the judges chose to award this work due to the diversity of applications that ABHs may be suitable for and the possibility of integrating ABHs into pre-existing structures to reduce undesired noise and vibration.”

VFS21 event organiser Ed Gould, Creative Director at Carswell Gould, added: “This year’s Venturefest South’s Festival of Innovation produced a stunning display of creativity from innovators who have the ability to turn good ideas into great businesses.

“There was real positive energy at the event and we have had great feedback from our partners and sponsors who had a productive day making new connections and promoting the opportunities for funding and other support they have to offer.”