Young Innovators Success Stories: Madelaine Dowd, Helm Innovation, East Midlands

Posted on: 24/10/2021
Madelaine Dowd portrait

Disaster zone innovator finds focus to make an impact.

Before Madelaine Dowd secured the Young Innovators Award, she had hit a wall with developing the concept for her maritime safety product and was constantly questioning her ability.

Her time was being spent between finding funding and trying to establish a reputation.

She says being recognised as a Young Innovator by Innovate UK and The Prince’s Trust gave her the confidence to achieve her ambitions and push herself further than she ever believed she could.

Sparking innovation

Madelaine established her career working in disaster zones around the world helping survivors.

A challenge by the Royal College of Art focused on improving safety on the River Thames sparked an idea for Madelaine to focus her innovative ambitions on reducing risk in one of the world’s most dangerous jobs, maritime piloting. This led her to become Founder and CEO of Helm Innovation Ltd, a product design company working to make ship to ship transfers safer.

With crucial support from her Innovation Champion and the £5,000 grant, the past year has seen her secure a patent for her product; establish herself as a prominent public speaker and lecturer; and set up her own design consultancy to support other start-ups achieve their ambitions.

Facing failure 

She says some of the most impactful moments she has experienced since winning the Award have been based on becoming resilient to failure.

“Failure is something that has always had a negative stigma and I have always been reserved when there is a risk of failure. However, this programme gave me the confidence and support to push my ambition in the face of failure to lead me to success,” Madelaine says.

A key area of focus for Madelaine over the past year has been trying to balance the control of the direction of the company alongside managing financial resources.

She has received funding opportunities along the way but is proud of being able to achieve critical milestones by adopting a lean business model approach, thereby not needing to fall back on investment offers that haven’t been right.

“This ability to achieve high quality with minimal funding has forced a more sustainable research and development process as well as forcing the team to adapt and learn new skills,’ she says. “These new skills will be transferred to our new design studio, to support more early stage start-ups with the lessons we have learnt.”

Catalytic innovator

With the programme’s support, Madelaine would now describe herself as a ‘catalytic Young Innovator’ with a clear focus on helping those around her succeed.

“With a background in working in disaster zones and crises, the aim is always to help others take pride in helping themselves. There is long term value in doing so for many reasons, but mostly to empower individuals to thrive,” she says.

A key focus of the coming months will be to do just that through her newly-established Cross Design Studio. This will also involve working with university incubators to provide students with the confidence and knowledge they need to succeed.

In addition, Madelaine will be looking to secure a partnership for selling and distributing Helm Innovation’s products to bring them to market as well as focusing on a design solutions concept to natural disasters.

She says, “With increasing amounts of natural disasters as a result of global warming, I have an idea on how to educate people to help them help themselves in the case of a crisis.”

Ambition to implementation 

It has been both the financial support through Innovate UK and the wider business support package via KTN that has given Madelaine the confidence in her own ability, and the knowhow, to make the big moves needed to further her career in innovation.

“This programme has given me a new network of achievers and entrepreneurs that want to help each other succeed. The support and value this has will continue to help me thrive but also allow me to learn more to share with future innovators and entrepreneurs through my design studio and teaching,” Madelaine says. “Through this programme’s support I have found my focus and understood my potential impact in the world. I am the happiest and most fulfilled I have ever been. I can’t wait to see all the lessons I have learnt come into practice following the end of this programme and to make a real difference in the world.”

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