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.
Learn more about this year’s shortlisted candidates
The People’s Choice winner for this category is Hire Space
Summer 2011 saw two friends, Will Swannell and Ed Poland, running around in a school sports hall, attempting to break the Guinness World Record for the longest 5-aside football game. During this exhausting match, they began lamenting the shortage of community spaces in post-2008 Britain.
And it was from this unlikely setting that Hire Space began life - a way to help austerity-hit community centres and schools draw in extra income through events. Today, it is the go-to venue sourcing company which is fast making inroads into the UK’s £40bn events business.
It’s the ease of use which makes Hire Space so special. Customers get the same, or better, price as going direct, and the site is supported by venues that pay for the bookings they confirm via the platform.
In the space of four years Hire Space now employs more than 40 employees, raised multiple-millions in funding and has a client list which includes Google, Facebook, Universal and the NHS.
Follow Hire Space on Twitter: @HireSpace
The intersection of different disciplines can produce amazing results. In 2009 entrepreneur Rafe Offer was having drinks with friends Dave Alexander, a professional folk singer, and Rocky Start, a branding consultant.
The three pined for the days when a fan could attend a show and just focus on the music. They decided to organise a gig, inviting only people known to appreciate music for its own sake. In April 2009, their first event took place, with Dave performing his own work to an audience of 40 in Rocky’s front room.
“The whole experience was magical,” said Rafe later. The trio knew something interesting had occurred. Songs from a Room (Sofar) was born, and further gigs in London and New York followed. Rafe began to receive calls from people around the world, asking if they could host Sofar gigs.
By early 2017, Sofar Sounds had hosted more than 3000 gigs in 200 different cities. The product of a random conversation, it had become a flourishing international business with investment from Virgin Group and a partnership with Airbnb.
Follow Sofar Sounds on Twitter: @sofarsounds
Jeffry Weers is a man who is as dogged in his pursuit of scientific excellence as he is an enthusiastic fan of baseball. Bringing together these two interests proved provident for a breakthrough in the treatment of chronic pulmonary disease or COPD.
For many years, treatments for COPD were through nebulisers or dry powder inhalers. Both treatment methods were frequently ineffective, inspiring Jeffry to pursue a superior drug delivery method.
A key problem associated with a dry powder inhaler is that the particles frequently get stuck before reaching the lung. This is where baseball comes into play. Jeffry, a physical chemist with a broad multidisciplinary scientific background, came up with the idea of the plastic porous ball used in baseball practice. This helps slow the ball down, allowing a player to throw in a more curved trajectory. He applied this concept to drug development, hoping that the porous drug particles would help them ‘curve’ along respiratory tracts.
After numerous experiments over 20 years, Jeffry successfully commercialised the TOBI Podhaler used in the treatment of cystic fibrosis and subsequently two further products using the same technology were developed to treat COPD.
Follow Jeffry on LinkedIn
A remote camera device, a mobile app and a laser – they sound like the components for a lethal gadget destined for super spy, James Bond. But they are in fact the key elements of Petcube, a family of interactive technologies to help owners remotely monitor the health and safety of their pets.
Petcube started as a creative solution to an annoying problem. Alex Neskin’s neighbours in Kiev were complaining that his pet Chihuahua was continually barking, so by combining a remote camera with a laser pointer he was able to divert the attention of his pet dog.
The barking stopped but the idea grew. Neskin teamed up with Yaroslav Azhnyuk and Andrey Klen. They raised seed funding on Kickstarter, and opened an office in San Francisco to commercialise their ideas. Today there is a family of devices, which now includes a treat dispenser. Retailing from £159 in the UK, you can control your Petcube through a mobile app, recording up to 30 days of video history with a cloud recording subscription, and share your pet’s best moments on Petcube’s growing community of pet-lovers.
Follow Petcube on Twitter: @Petcube