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InnovationRCA Celebrates 50 Successful Start-up Companies

InnovationRCA launches First50 Scale-Up programme to connect their start-ups with industry mentors and help them reach greater heights

The Royal College of Art’s centre for enterprise and entrepreneurship, InnovationRCA, has reached a significant milestone on its journey, helping 82 graduates launch more than 50 spinouts. These companies range from one producing a vegan leather alternative made from pineapple leaves, to making clothes that expand as children grow and another producing concrete material available in a roll. Collectively these companies have created more than 650 UK jobs and generated more than £87 million turnover in the last 10 years.

A number of InnovationRCA’s companies have either achieved the status of scale-up or are very close to achieving this (the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) definition of a scale-up is a company that has 10 or more employees and is growing at a rate of 20% year on year for three years). To help these companies reach the next level and create successful and sustainable British companies, InnovationRCA has launched a new First50 Scale-Up programme which will pair InnovationRCA entrepreneurs with senior executives from industry to foster future heavyweight talent in innovation and disruption.

Of the programme, InnovationRCA Director, Dr Nadia Danhash, said: 'The First50 Scale-Up programme is about so much more than celebrating the achievements of our graduate companies. It’s about recognising their potential to scale to even greater heights, create more jobs and exports, improve more people's lives and change the world we live in. We've been with them from day one, and we will continue to stand with them shoulder to shoulder and support them with this new scale-up programme.'

RCA Vice-Chancellor, Dr Paul Thompson, said: ‘We are so pleased to be launching the First50 Scale-Up programme of support that says that the RCA is your partner for life and will continue to support you long after you’ve graduated. We must give thanks to a number of senior executives from global and British large corporations have agreed to become scale-up business fellows, giving up their time to meet our founders and provide insights to help these companies grow.’

InnovationRCA’s Success Stories

IKAWA – Maker of the world’s first digital micro coffee roaster

Founded by Royal College of Art graduates Andrew Stordy and Rombout Frieling, IKAWA, is a scale-up that’s created a micro-roasting system that is revolutionising the word of coffee for producers and consumers.

Designed and made in the UK and selling in over 70 countries, the IKAWA vision is to change the coffee industry for the benefit of coffee growers as well as coffee drinkers, by facilitating a rewarding trading relationship with smallholder coffee farmers and helping them improve their coffee quality.

Coffee enthusiasts order green, unroasted beans, which are then roasted at the push of a button and ground in an IKAWA Home Roaster. Industry professionals can use the Pro Roaster to test new harvests and replicate these roasts when back in the office.

IKAWA say, 'So simple, the whole family can use it. It’s powerful and its capability only grows with your curiosity.'


ROLI – Creating new music-making devices for the digital age

Design-led music technology company ROLI develops hardware and software products to make music creation more connected and accessible for everyone.

ROLI’s first product, the Seaboard, reimagined the piano keyboard as a soft touch-responsive, continuous surface combining the expressive capabilities of multiple instruments in one interface.

Founded at InnovationRCA, ROLI which grew out of RCA alumnus Roland Lamb’s graduation project, exports its products to over 40 countries.


Plumis – A fire detection and suppression company that produces Automist®, a simple, retrofittable, sprinkler-alternative that detects and puts out fires without soaking homes

Automist began as a student project at the Royal College of Art and was supported and backed by InnovationRCA.  

This young company is winner of numerous international awards including the James Dyson Award and a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Innovation – the UK’s highest accolade for business success – in recognition of outstanding innovative achievements by demonstrating commercial success through innovative products, as well as Build It Awards 2016’s Best Home Technology Product.

Automist has been installed in more than 3,000 UK homes.


Concrete Canvas – Maker of Concrete Canvas , concrete on a roll

Concrete Canvas® is a flexible, concrete impregnated fabric that hardens on hydration to form a thin, durable, waterproof and fire-resistant concrete layer. It prevents erosion control, containment and rapidly deployable hardened shelters.

Used in over 80 countries and employing more than 30 people, Concrete Canvas was ranked the 16th fastest-growing UK company by Sunday Times ‘Fast Track 100’ (2015) and won the Queen’s Award for Innovation in Enterprise in 2014.

Concrete Canvas grew out of Royal College of Art graduates William Crawford and Peter Brewin’s project of rapidly deployable shelters for humanitarian disaster relief.


Loowatt – Maker of a waterless toilet and waste processing system that converts waste into fuel and fertiliser

Founder Virginia Gardiner created Loowatt while studying for her Master's in Industrial Design Engineering at the Royal College of Art.  

In addition to installing over 100 household toilets in drought-stricken Madagascar, Loowatt also provides luxury ‘super loos’ servicing music festivals and large-scale outdoor events in the UK, including the 2018 wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry in Windsor, UK.

The Loowatt team is made up of designers, engineers, tech-experts and business people, all of whom are committed to creating a paradigm shift in sanitation.

The company has received several large awards from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Innovate UK and is backed by a number of investors.


Ananas Anam – Maker of the world's first sustainable leather alternative: Piñatex®

Piñatex is an innovative natural textile made from pineapple leaf fibre; the by-product of existing agriculture. Using waste leaf fibres creates an additional income stream for farming communities in countries that need it most.

Piñatex is a natural, sustainably-sourced, cruelty free material and is the first fabric to receive a 'PETA-Approved Vegan' certification.

Ananas Anam Founder Dr Carmen Hijosa created Piñatex while studying for a PhD in Textiles the Royal College of Art. Carmen is also a winner of InnovateUK's Women in Innovation Awards 2016.


TG0 – Developer of a tactile interactive control technology

Almost all electronic product controls have the same limitation: bundles of on/off buttons that are rigid and uninspiring to use, expensive and complicated to manufacture. 

TG0 produces controls that are simple and cheap to manufacture, ergonomic and friendlier to the environment.

TG0 is an award winning start-up creating a platform technology with a wide range of applications – from automotive interiors and consumer electronics to gaming consoles.

TG0 was invented by Founder Ming Kong while he was studying Innovation Design Engineering at the Royal College of Art. The technology is patent pending.


Gravity Sketch – The company's immersive 3D technology allows users to explore and communicate their ideas directly in 3D though AR and VR

An intuitive creation tool with a re-imagined user experience designed for mixed reality, Gravity Sketch’s allows users to seamlessly export content in a variety of formats giving them the freedom to take design to the next phase.

Create 3D models, concept drafts, and work in a fast and intuitive way through the use of AR, VR, and Touch technologies – with Gravity Sketch there is no need to learn CAD, engineering vocabulary or cumbersome keyboard commands.

The Gravity Sketch team of Oluwaseyi Sosanya, Daniela Paredes Fuentes, Guillaume Couche and Pierre Paslier began working on the project while studying for their Master's in Innovation Design Engineering at the Royal College of Art.