Young entrepreneur from Northern Ireland wins national award with ideas to change the world

Mark is named Young Innovator Award winner by Innovate UK after turning his farming hobby into a vertical farm business, Green Shed Organic

By Claire Cartmill
Wednesday, 26th January 2022, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 26th January 2022, 8:15 am
Mark Sutherland (30) has won a coveted award for his new business project
Mark Sutherland (30) has won a coveted award for his new business project

A Belfast entrepreneur has been named as one of this year’s Young Innovator Award winners by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency.

Mark Sutherland has started the New Year with a boost after winning a coveted award for his new business project.

Mark joins 62 other young people aged 18 to 30 with ideas to change the world and will benefit from a £5,000 grant, one-on-one business coaching and an allowance to cover living costs.

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Inspired by the drive for sustainability, Mark (30) turned his farming hobby into a vertical farm business, Green Shed Organic, that produces year round yields of high nutrition crops that will be made into health foods with less impact on the environment.

The Young Innovators Awards recognise young people from across the UK with great business ideas who have the potential to become successful entrepreneurs and future leaders in innovation.

Innovate UK KTN supports the programme through the delivery of workshops and briefing events that provide practical business advice to a network of over 8,000 young people across the UK.

Hundreds of these aspiring entrepreneurs then apply to the programme and, following a robust evaluation process, 63 innovators have started the New Year with a boost after winning the coveted award.

Now in its third year, Innovate UK’s Young Innovators programme continues to support high-potential young people from diverse backgrounds. This year, half of the winners are women, around a third are Black, Asian or from another ethnic minority group, 17% have identified as disabled. There are also multiple award winners in every region of the UK.

From turning fish skin into bags and wallets to enabling non-specialists to build safe, disaster-resistant housing, all of this year’s Young Innovators have ideas that promise to address current challenges. Ideas this year span everything from technology to physical and mental health and from sustainability to fashion.

And, as we continue to navigate through the pandemic, it too has played a part in inspiring the next generation – with ideas including WorkLocal, an online app that helps home-based workers discover local pubs, bars and cafes to work from and a micro garden subscription, Little Roots, delivering ready-planted containers for urban flat-dwellers, to bring nature to them.

Other ideas include Piece and Quiet, jigsaw puzzles for adults showcasing up and coming UK artists and Inspiritus Health, a device made for the emergency services that releases different scents during their virtual reality training to give them a more real-life, immersive experience.

Commenting on his project and award, Mark, said: “I started farming as a hobby, but I enjoyed it so much that I left my job and went back to studying. My aim is to improve the quality of foods and reduce the impact on the environment through my vertical farm business, Green Shed Organic. We produce year-round yields of high nutrition crops which we’ll process into health foods. I’m so grateful for Innovate UK’s Young Innovators Award, the Young Innovator’s programme really champions what others may see as mad.”

Emily Nott, head of equality, diversity and inclusion at Innovate UK explaind: “2021 continued to be a challenging year of uncertainty. Which makes it even more extraordinary how many of the winners have made such progress on their ideas - undeterred and resolute in their passion to make a difference in their own unique way. Working alongside this year’s winners, Innovate UK will help them grow and develop their business idea to make the world a better, and more innovative place. We can’t wait to see what they achieve next.”

Indro Mukerjee, CEO of Innovate UK, added: “The innovation potential of this young age group is incredible. It’s a cohort that promises to bring energy, entrepreneurial flair and fresh perspectives to today’s big challenges. Our young innovators are also relatable role models, inspiring and showing the path to others, as they create economic and societal benefits through innovation – so that we can all see a fairer, more resilient and more productive society”.

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