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Many successful innovations aren’t particularly novel or clever, 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.


Key criteria


The size of the external discontinuity, and the timing of the innovation to coincide with that change.


Learn more about the 2017 shortlisted candidates


The People’s Choice winner for this category is Paul Villiger, Villiger Entsorgungssysteme



DeepMind is a London-based artificial intelligence (AI) company which develops general-purpose learning algorithms and uses them to help tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

DeepMind's systems are having positive environmental impact by learning how to use less energy in Google's data centres, and the company is collaborating with clinicians in the UK's National Health Service to deliver better care for conditions that affect millions of people.

The brainchild of British AI researcher, neuroscientist, and computer game designer, Demis Hassabis, DeepMind has made pioneering breakthroughs in artificial intelligence and deep reinforcement learning. These techniques underpinned AlphaGo, a computer programme that defeated the Go world champion, Lee Sedol , in 2016 – a breakthrough proclaimed to have arrived a decade ahead of its time.

In 2014, DeepMind was acquired by Google in their largest ever European acquisition, and is now part of the Alphabet group.

twitter-128_32x32   Follow DeepMind on Twitter: @DeepMindAI



Fever-Tree was founded in 2005 by Charles Rolls and Tim Warrillow. The founders set out to challenge the status quo and revolutionise a stagnant mixer category. Charles and Tim travelled the world searching for the very best ingredients naming the company after the ‘fever tree’, the colloquial name for the cinchona tree, where quinine the vital ingredient to tonic is sourced. Instead of joining the flurry of companies vying for top billing in the quality spirits market, Rolls and Warrillow instead focused on creating an exceptional mixer. designed to enhance and lift the flavour of these great spirits, rather than mask them.

The pair spent 15 months (and long nights in the British Library) researching the extensive history of tonic water. After several trips to Africa, it was a journey to the last remaining plantation of Cinchona Ledgeriana on the Rwanda-Conga border that changed their fortunes forever. By perfectly complementing the surge in interest in premium gins Fever-Tree has today achieved a market cap of just over £2.5 billion while expanding their product range, which is now available in 65 markets globally.


twitter-128_32x32   Fever-Tree on Twitter: @FeverTreeMixers



FlixBus is a European long distance mobility provider and a brand of the FlixMobility group. Since 2013, FlixBuses have offered a new, convenient and green way to travel which suits every budget. Thanks to a clever business model and an innovative technology, the start-up has established Europe’s largest intercity bus network in less than four years.

The company’s technology is able to handle network planning, customer service, quality management, marketing and sales as well as ticketing, pricing and business development – all under one roof thanks to a multiple servers and high scalability of delivery. “Our vision is smart and green mobility for everyone to experience the world.” says founder Jochen Engert.

It’s the combination of a nimble tech-start-up mentality, a fast e-commerce-platform and go-ahead transportation company team that has made the difference, allowing FlixBus to disrupt the European travel market and to beat even global players on their home turf.

twitter-128_32x32   Follow FlixBus on Twitter: @FlixBus

Jack Dorsey, Squarecompany_s


Square is a mobile payment and point of sale (POS) device and software company. Unlike the vast majority of competitor solutions, Square enables vendors to use a single, centralised system in place of the typical patchwork of structures.

While point of sale (POS) and credit card systems have existed for decades, Square has exploited recent innovations to revolutionise the payment services industry. Based partly on his earlier experience as CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey saw how the shift towards ubiquitous mobile usage would change the world of payments. Square caught the mobile wave to gain widespread user base among small business owners.


Square Inc. has experienced tremendous growth, growing from $203bn in 2012 to close to $10bn today.


twitter-128_32x32   Follow Square on Twitter: @Square

Paul Villiger, Villiger Entsorgungssystemecompany_s


Waste management is a highly important industry, but one that has experienced relatively slow-paced advances with limited innovations in operational efficiency and design. This has been the case until the arrival of Villiger Entsorgungssysteme AG.

The Switzerland-based company was founded by Paul Villiger in 1991. Recognising the growing need for efficient waste collection and storage in his rapidly urbanising town, Paul pivoted his original farm machinery business towards the construction of comprehensive waste solutions.

Today the company makes and installs fully integrated waste collection systems which include underground storage facilities and automated collection trucks. The modular systems are loaded with technology such as sensors to measure fill levels and can directly charge users by the weight of their rubbish. Municipalities can also monitor usage and optimise collection at the rubbish stations via online dashboards. The underground systems are unobtrusive, better control for odour and blend into the urban environment.


Today Villiger has installed more than 50,000 systems in Switzerland and in Europe, making it one of the EU’s leading companies in the disposal system industry.

For more information about Entsorgungssysteme AG, see: