Top industry experts named as judges of Blackwood design competition

Ryan MacDonald

A who’s who of top industry experts has been revealed as the panel of judges for a competition which aims to find the best new innovations to help people with disabilities.

The annual Blackwood Design Awards (BDA) invite budding designers, engineers and inventors to submit their creations to help disabled people live life to the full.

The fate of the shortlisted designs will lie in the hands of eight judges, with entrants asked to perform a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style pitch to them before a winner is selected.

The panel consists of a host of well-known industry names including; Ryan MacDonald, ambassador network manager at Euan’s Guide, and Toby Mildon, a BBC Ouch blogger.

Other judges include, Gavin Neate, CEO of Neatebox, an app which helps companies ensure five star service is given to any person with a disability; Professor Lorne Crerar, chairman of Harper Macleod LLP; Robyn Love, Team GB wheelchair basketball star; and Richard Neville, editor in chief of morning newspapers at DCT Media.

Blackwood board member Anne Walker will also sit on the judging panel along with Blackwood member, Fiona Thwaites.

Ryan MacDonald, Ambassador at Euan’s Guide and panel member, said: “I’m a manual wheelchair user and for the last 13 years I have been working with disabled people in areas such as accessibility, housing and sport.

“In every corner of the world, there are disabled people striving for independent living. Contests like the BDA encourage concepts, designs and products from a whole cross section of the community.

“Anyone can create the next life changing design. From an engineer in Dundee, through to a product designer in India.

“The world of product design is moving at such a fast pace, so I can’t wait to see what this year’s entries have in store for us.”

Both experienced professionals and gifted amateurs can enter the Awards, meaning that both technologically advanced and those simpler, yet often most successful designs, are equally welcome.

The Awards can also represent a great opportunity for design students to get their first big break while still at university.

Past entries include a design for a wheelchair that allows users to control its direction with their eyes, as well as the ‘S’up Spoon’, which enables people with shaky hands to eat more easily.

Max Brown, chair of Blackwood Board, said: “We’re delighted to reveal this year’s judging panel and believe the broad range of experts on show will ensure we choose a worthy winner.

“The Awards are a fantastic way to celebrate the amazing ideas people have to help those with disabilities and each year we’re amazed by the quality and broad spectrum of designs received.

“It’s so rewarding to work in an industry where so many people are striving to help others. There’s no design too simplistic or too extravagant, the Awards are open to all and I’m excited to see what the judges choose as this year’s winner.”

There are four categories up for grabs at this year’s Awards; Best Collaborative Project by a University or Institute of Higher Learning, Best New Concept, Best New Accessible Technology and Best New Aids and Equipment.

The competition has a terrific reputation for enabling its winners to go onto great success, with entrants from all over the world, including Canada and Pakistan.

Entries should be submitted no later than 12 noon on Friday, March 30, and entrants will be notified that their submission has been received. Contact Paul Richoux for full details on how to enter – PaulR@blackwoodgroup.org.uk.

Winners are chosen on what has the biggest impact on people’s independence, not what uses the most technology.