Here's what happened at the inaugural Real Innovation Awards

The Real Innovation Awards were launched in 2016 by the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (formerly Deloitte Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship) in partnership with Management Today to celebrate the messy process of real innovation.

Twenty-seven businesses were shortlisted in 2016 for the Real Innovation Awards. A panel of expert judges selected the winners of the Judge’s Choice. An online public vote for the People’s Choice Award ran alongside the main judging process in September.

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People's Choice winners 2016

While the judges were deliberating over the Real Innovation Awards Judges’ Choice winners, we invited the public to vote online for their favourite nominee in each of the six categories. Voting ran through the month of September and the People’s Choice winners were announced on 5 October. 


norwood logo

The If At First You Don’t Succeed Award
Paul Ostergaard endured several failed ventures before striking gold with the international calling app World Phone.

Follow Norwood Systems on Twitter: @norwoodsystems


The Masters of Reinvention Award
Schibsted deliberately disrupted its own traditional newspaper company en route to becoming a digital leader with a digitally savvy global audience.

Follow Schibsted Media Group on Twitter: @schibstedgroup


The Best Beats First Award
Grab, which began as a simple taxi-hailing app, is now Southeast Asia’s largest mobile internet company, pursuing a vision of providing safe, accessible, affordable transport for all in the region.

Follow Grab on Twitter: @grabsg


The George Bernard Shaw Unreasonable Person Award
Helgason suffered countless setbacks but won through in the end: almost all virtual-reality games are now built using his game engine Unity.

Follow Unity Technologies on Twitter: @unity3d


The Alexander Fleming Serendipity Award
Empatica took a wearable designed to detect stress levels in autistic people and turned it into a device that provides alerts of oncoming seizures in epilepsy sufferers.

Follow Empatica on Twitter: @empatica


The Harnessing the Winds of Change Award
Protean has perfectly timed its commercial in-wheel drive solution, developed through innovative lean manufacturing, strong patent protection and in-house R&D.

Follow Protean Electric Limited on LinkedIn: Protean Electric Limited

Judges' Choice winners 2016

We shortlisted up to five entries for each of the six Real Innovation Awards categories and then our judging panel decided upon the winners. A People’s Choice vote ran in parallel during the month of September.



Best Beats First Award
Former analyst William Shu criss-crossed London for 10 months on his scooter to launch Deliveroo with in-depth knowledge as well as an evolving routing algorithm.

Follow Deliveroo on Twitter: @deliveroo


The George Bernard Shaw Unreasonable Person Award
Embrace Innovations’ founder Jane Chen even moved to India in her quest to develop an affordable, non-electric incubator to save babies’ lives.

Follow Embrace Innovations on Twitter: @embraceinnov


The Alexander Fleming Serendipity Award
Owner Andy Barr brilliantly spotted that his company’s high-end scallop trawling gear could be repurposed to recover nuclear sludge.

Follow Barnon on Twitter: @barrnon


The Harnessing the Winds of Change Award
One of the few European “unicorns”, BlaBlaCar’s ride-sharing platform soon became the transport platform of choice for social, cash-strapped millennials.

Follow BlaBlaCar on Twitter: @blablacar


If At First You Don’t Succeed Award
Dubsmash fine-tuned its lip-synching app through constant iteration. It has now been downloaded by 100m people in 78 countries.

Follow Dubsmash on Twitter: @dubsmash


Joint winner: The If At First You Don’t Succeed Award
By completely reinventing its operating model the meals-on-wheels company turned near-disaster into ongoing success, pulling back from the brink to become an innovative sector leader.

Follow Hertfordshire Independent Living Service (HILS) on Twitter: @hertsindliving


Masters of Reinvention Award
McGuirk’s innovation – unpopular at first but successful – was to refocus his force away from traditional firefighting towards safety and prevention.

Follow Manchester Fire on Twitter: @manchesterfire

The categories and all shortlisted companies

Download the full Business Summaries here

If At First You Don’t Succeed Award

Making an omelette means cracking some eggs. Any successful project has a failure or two along the way, and equally most failures provide insights that can lead to success. This award celebrates an individual or organisation who tried something that didn’t work out – but which provided the stepping-stone for a subsequently successful outcome. The candidates for this award were:

  • Dubsmash
  • Hertfordshire Independent Living Service (HILS)
  • Norwood Systems

Masters of Reinvention Award

Incumbent firms always struggle with disruptive rivals because they don’t want to cannibalise their existing offerings or they are unable to rethink their existing way of working. This award is for the organisation that most successfully reinvented itself when faced with a major challenge to its previously-successful business model. The candidates for this award were:

  • AutoTrader
  • Steve McGuirk/Greater Manchester Fire Service
  • ING Bank
  • Schibsted

Best Beats First Award

First movers don’t always have the advantage. Sometimes the smart thing is to wait for the pioneers to take the initial risks, and to do the hard work in shaping a market. This award is for the company that moved quickly to dominate an emerging market category, typically with a different and better business model than the first mover. The candidates for this award were:

  • Citymapper
  • Clearwater
  • Deliveroo
  • Grab
  • King Digital Entertainment

George Bernard Shaw Unreasonable Person Award

Shaw said that progress depends on the unreasonable man (or woman) – the person who persists in shaping the world rather than letting it shape them. This award is for an individual who has shown enormous tenacity and stubbornness in pursuing an idea, despite the difficulties encountered along the way. The candidates for this award were:

  • Danae Ringelmann / Indiegogo
  • David Helgason / Unity Technologies
  • Fernando Fischmann / Crystal Lagoons
  • Jane Chen / Embrace Innovations

Alexander Fleming Serendipity Award

Fleming discovered penicillin essentially by accident, and indeed many other famous discoveries have been entirely serendipitous. This award is for a person or organisation that built a thriving business on an idea that originated in the most unexpected or surprising way. The candidates for this award were:

  • Barrnon
  • Empatica
  • Innis & Gunn
  • Morphsuits
  • Yamli

Harnessing The Winds of Change Award

Many successful innovations aren’t particularly novel, but succeed because they are carefully timed to coincide with other complementary developments: they harness the “winds of change.” This award is for those who spot what’s just around the corner soon enough to take advantage of it.

  • Babylon Health
  • BlaBlaCar
  • M-Kopa
  • Protean Electric Limited
  • Waze

The judges


Julian Birkinshaw

Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at the London Business School, and Academic Director of the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Tim Brooks_1

Tim Brooks

CEO of BMJ, a global medical knowledge provider


Luis Cilimingras

IDEO London's managing director

Charlie Dawson_1

Charlie Dawson

Partner at The Foundation


Vimi Grewal-Carr

Managing Partner Innovation, Global Lead Client Services Partner, Financial Services, Deloitte


Matthew Gwyther

Editor at Haymarket Publishing/Management Today

Kathryn Parsons_1

Kathryn Parsons

Founder of Decoded


Jeff Skinner - Secretary to the judging committee

Executive Director of the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at LBS


Watch insights from the winners of the Real Innovation Awards 2016 and see the photos from the event.