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Innovator of the Year

Copyright: BBSRC

Update: 15 November 2019

Thank you for your interest in the BBSRC Innovator of the Year competition. This highly successful programme has been running for just over ten years. We consider it to have been really useful in recognising and rewarding excellent BBSRC-funded researchers and innovators over the years.

However, we have taken the decision to pause the programme for this year. This will allow us to evaluate the competition and reflect on how the programme might need to evolve in the future to reflect the breadth of innovation across the whole of UKRI.

We do still want to hear about innovations and successful outcomes for BBSRC funded projects and have other routes for promoting these and celebrating them so please do share your story with us by emailing

BBSRC Innovator of the Year recognises and rewards individuals and small teams who have harnessed the potential of their excellent research.

The competition has four award categories:

  • Commercial Impact
  • Social Impact
  • International Impact
  • Early Career Impact.

It is designed to recognise the full breadth of impacts that BBSRC investments in research have, from creation of spinout companies or social enterprises, to working in collaboration with business and NGOs, to working with policy makers, both in the UK and abroad.

Winners in each category will receive a £10,000 award, with a further £10,000 for the overall winner, the BBSRC Innovator of the Year.

The awards will be presented at a high-profile event in London on 15 May 2019 in front of an invited audience of leading figures from the worlds of investment, industry, government, charity and academia.


The competition is open to all researchers funded by BBSRC within the past six years, including:

  • PhD students and postdoctoral researchers funded by BBSRC through studentships, fellowships or research grants
  • Principal investigators or co-investigators on a research grant funded by BBSRC
  • Holders of any BBSRC-funded fellowship
  • Researchers in institutes receiving strategic funding from BBSRC.

For team entries, at least half of the team should meet the above entry requirements. Where there are non-eligible individuals who have played a significant part in helping deliver impact, their role in assisting the eligible researcher(s) should be made clear in the application.

For all entries, applicants must demonstrate the connection between their BBSRC-funded research and the impact generated or expected.

Previous awards: 2018

Copyright: BBSRC
Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton and Professor Rob Honey

Overall winner: Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton and Professor Rob Honey
Commercial innovator: Dr Neil Gibbs
Social innovator: Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton and Professor Rob Honey
International Impact: Professor Martin Broadley and Dr Louise Ander
Early Career Impact: Ben Dolman and Dr James Winterburn

Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton and Professor Rob Honey said: "We are delighted that the quality and impact of our science has been recognised with such a prestigious award. We will continue with our programme of research, using brain science to keep our fighters safe so they can keep you safe."

Innovator of the Year 2018 (PDF 6.45MB)

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Previous awards: 2017

Dr Shelby Temple
Dr Shelby Temple

Overall winner: Dr Shelby Temple
Commercial innovator: Dr Shelby Temple
Social innovator: Professor Juliet Osborne
International Impact: Professor Sarah Cleaveland
Early Career Impact: Dr James Field

Dr Temple said: "I was overwhelmed with excitement and pride that all the hard work had led to this fantastic recognition, but I also felt bashful because there were so many great and deserving projects."

Innovator of the Year 2017 (PDF 6.76MB)

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Previous awards: 2016

Copyright: BBSRC
Professor Tom Brown

Overall winner: Professor Tom Brown
Commercial innovator: Professor Tom Brown
Social innovator: Dr Barrie Rooney
Most promising innovator: Dr Martin Pule

Professor Brown said: "I’m amazingly proud to have been chosen for this award given the remarkable array of innovators who were finalists – I was particularly impressed by the global nature of some of the innovations up for the award. It has been BBSRC’s long term and consistent support which has allowed the science to flourish that has led to my innovation."

Fostering Innovation 2016 (PDF 7.45MB)

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Previous awards: 2015

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Professor Ian Givens

Overall winner: Professor Ian Givens
Commercial innovator: Professor Andrew Hopkins
Social innovator: Professor Ian Givens
Most promising innovator: Travis Bayer

Professor Givens said: "I am honoured and very surprised to be named the BBSRC Innovator of the Year. Innovation is at the heart of research at Reading, and I am lucky enough to work in one of the best possible research environments of its kind. Much of my research in this area has been supported by BBSRC DRINC which is an excellent model for integrating research with industry."

Innovator of the Year 2015 (PDF 741KB)

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Previous awards: 2014

Luke Alphey
Professor Luke Alphey

Overall winner: Professor Luke Alphey
Commercial innovator: Dr Curtis Dobson
Social innovator: Professor Luke Alphey
Most promising innovator: Professor Cathie Martin and Dr Eugenio Butelli

Professor Luke Alphey said: "It is such a great honour to win Innovator of the Year – particularly when there is such stiff competition. Tonight really showcases how innovations from UK bioscience are tackling such a huge range of challenges."

Fostering Innovation 2014 (PDF 2.55MB)

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Previous awards: 2013

Dr Ryan Donnelly
Dr Ryan Donnelly

Overall winner: Dr Ryan Donnelly
Commercial innovator: Dr Anna Hine
Social innovator: Dr Simon Gubbins, Professor Peter Mertens, Dr Carrie Batten
Most promising innovator: Dr Ryan Donnelly

Dr Donnelly said: "I'm delighted and very surprised. I knew for a contest like this there was going to be very strong competition. To win something like this at such an early stage of my career, well it's the highlight of my career, it really is."

Fostering Innovation 2013 (PDF 2.60MB)

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Previous awards: 2012

George Lomonossof
Professor George Lomonossoff

Overall winner: Professor George Lomonossoff
Commercial innovator: Professor Jim Murray
Social innovator: Professor Russell Foster
Most promising innovator: Professor George Lomonossoff

Professor Lomonossoff expressed his delight at winning, saying: "You want to hope but you don't dare. It's a big surprise; rather like winning an Oscar."

Innovator of the Year 2012 (PDF 1.48MB)

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Previous awards: 2011

Jason Swedlow
Professor Jason Swedlow

Overall winner: Professor Jason Swedlow
Commercial innovator: Professor Chris Lowe
Social innovator: Professor Jason Swedlow
Most promising innovator: Professor Keith Waldron

Professor Swedlow said: "It is a great honour to accept this award. The support we have received from BBSRC, as well as the Wellcome Trust, during the early stages of the research has been invaluable. Our vision has always been to create a global standard for imaging software and the community that has grown up around the open source development is extraordinary. In reality I am receiving this award on behalf of a large group of extremely talented people who share a common commitment to innovation through team work, collaboration and the process of creating something new and exciting as a community."

Previous awards: 2010

Shankar Balasubramanian
Professor Shankar Balasubramanian

Overall winner: Professor Shankar Balasubramanian
Commercial innovator: Professor Shankar Balasubramanian
Social innovator: Professor Dave Goulson
Most promising innovator: Dr Michael McArthur

Professor Balasubramanian said: "I am delighted to accept the award of BBSRC Innovator of the Year and I do so on behalf of many people who have made important contributions at many stages of the Solexa project. I would particularly like to acknowledge my departmental colleague, Prof David Klenerman, who I co-founded Solexa with in 1998.

"None of this would have happened without the support of BBSRC. Their backing was essential for the blue skies research that gave rise to our original inventions. The continued funding of fundamental science by BBSRC will be an essential part of future enterprises and ultimately, wealth creation."

Previous awards: 2009

Professor Steven Jackson
Professor Stephen Jackson

Winner: Professor Stephen Jackson
Runner-up: Dr Luke Alphey
Runner-up: Professor Jeff Errington

Professor Jackson said: "It's a tremendous honour to receive this prestigious award. It really reflects that science, like that funded by BBSRC in my group over the years can yield both exciting science and commercial and social applications. I think this award is a showcase for how funding of science by BBSRC is able to provide major tangible benefits not only the UK science base but also the biotech and pharmaceutical industries."

Related calls: innovation people