Young Digital Leader of the Year

This list recognises the extraordinary achievements of young people aged 16-30 in the digital transformation space. The 10 finalists that make up the list will now face the public vote to put them into order and create an overall winner for 2018.

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Ben Towers

Tech Entrepreneur
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Ben Towers

Aged 19, Ben is a major influence to business, charities and government sector. Having started in business aged 11 Ben has worked with top brands on their digital campaigns. He was named the worlds most influential teenager, has completed a multi-million-pound business merger and is today focused on several ground-breaking digital projects. Alongside running several businesses Ben has a relentless passion for inspiring next generation engagement in digital business. He is an ambassador for the Princes Trust and worked alongside Deborah Meaden to launch the Ideas Means Business campaign with Innovate UK, Gov.uk and The Prince's trust. He is an ambassador for the iDEA award, a scheme run by Prince Andrew and Buckingham Palace to teach digital skills to people of all ages all over the world. Ben recently spoke at the Bett Education conference, sharing his digital journey with thousands of young people and teachers, emphasising the importance of digital skills for the future of the UK economy.

Our digital world has its ups and downs, and as a consequence of his personal experience Ben became an ambassador for Bullies Out, emphasising how powerful and vulnerable Digital Technologies can make people. In the last year Ben has presented, advised and influenced literally hundreds of thousands of people through a range of digital and personal appearances with a personal highlight in speaking at the BT Tech Lit Launch alongside Gavin Patterson (CEO of BT) and Oliver Benzecry (Chairman and MD of Accenture UK), on the use of tech for good, and how business must encourage young people into this space. Ben is currently leading the incubation phase of a new, international digital business focused on health and wellbeing, recognising that his generation face a difficult future if they do not make important decisions about their health today.

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Vimla Appadoo

Service Designer at FutureGov
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Vimla Appadoo

Vim’s using her expertise in helping build companies that are for profit and for purpose, gained from working at FutureEverything and Dotforge, to help transform digital services for citizens at DWP. She also runs a variety of community initiatives, including SheSaysMCR, which gives people who identify as women a voice in non diverse working environments and leads their mentoring programme. In 2016, Vim was voted a Top 50 ‘Future Leader’ at the inaugural Northern Power Women Awards. She has spoken at national and international events, on everything from innovation and empathy to tech for good funding and has recently done her first TEDx talk on social impact and technology.

In the past year, I have worked as a Service Designer at FutureEverything and the Department for Work and pensions. Whilst at FutureEverything I was redesigning Smart Cities to be human centred and as such, I lead the digital transformation of what Smart Cities mean to different communities within Manchester as part of the UK’s Innovate UK funded Smart Cities Demonstrator. I helped design groundbreaking initiatives to implement Community Key Performance Indicators, which were designed with local communities, to make sure that Smart City technologies met not only business needs, but the needs of the people who live, work and play in a city. My focus on community engagement and co-designing new technology and innovation led me to work at the DWP where I’m using Service Design to transform the way the department deals with debt. The vision I am working towards is to use digital as a platform to redesign government debt to encourage citizens to better manage their money and pull themselves out of poverty. I am currently working with government digital projects to work on mapping this process out.

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Emily Godden

Artist & Creative Technologist Virtually There Studio
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Emily Godden

I am an an artist, researcher and creative technologist. In recent work I have used virtual reality as a mechanism to create positive behaviour change on sustainability issues and I am passionate about making virtual reality more accessible to wider audiences. I have exhibited work at Tate Modern, Tate Britain, Spike Island, Firstsite, The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts and Somerset House.

Virtually There Studio isn’t restricted to working with one particular technology e.g. virtual reality, by working across media and technologies unique and immersive experiences are created to offer a unique experience working with cutting edge technologies. Asides from having an entertainment and leisure during the art and or technology experience the key innovative factor is the actions the customer has following the experience. In showcasing the actions of a customers actions in a mixed reality environment the customer has an immediate view of where for example their plastic bottle (which should’ve been placed in the recycling bin) ends up. In highlighting the impact of waste disposal the technology will play on the customers reactions to reward the customer for recycling. Virtually There Studio is not just about positive environmental marketing, the studio aims to create real impact, this impact will be assessed and studied in controlled conditions in order to establish a true picture of the impact of the experiences offered by the studio. This analysis and testing goes beyond other arts or technology studios to give both a quantitative and qualitative study of the ability of arts and technology to create positive behaviour change. In participating in research and development customers will be able to feel like they are a part of something having real world impact. By offering their feedback and responses to experiences the customer will be shaping the future of the studio in order to deliver content and experiences that meet consumer interest and demand in order to positively change behaviours surrounding the environment.

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Shannon Sullivan

Site Reliability Engineering Apprentice
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Shannon Sullivan

I have a background in the humanities, and started learning to code after university when I had an idea for an app I wanted to build. Before joining Google, I cofounded a SaaS startup in Brazil and worked as a web developer in Spain. Outside of work you can find me as director of Women Who Code London.

Last year I founded the first chapter of Women Who Code in Barcelona, Spain. After moving to London to join Google, I joined as director of the London chapter of the organisation. Women Who Code is a global non-profit with chapters in many cities, and in London we focus on providing our 5,000 member community of women the networking and upskilling opportunities they need to grow and advance their tech careers in the UK. This year in particular, I am focusing on organising talks and events catering to the JavaScript community, one of the fastest growing communities for women newly entering the tech industry.

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Solomon Gilbert

CEO & Head of Security Division Ferox Security LTD
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Solomon Gilbert

Cyber security expert and ex-hacker specialising and working closely with national law enforcement in preventing young people, especially those with autism spectrum disorders, from committing cyber crime. Founded Ferox Security after being expelled from school at 17 following personal difficulties with Aspergers. Now working to bridge the communication gap between vulnerable young people and law enforcement.

My main body of work consists of providing a unique and vivid insight into the workings of cyber criminals, the methodologies used by serious organised crime groups to take advantage of vulnerable yet talented young people, and bridging the communication gap between Aspergers, cyber crime, and the police. I continue to work in providing this insight in the form of public speaking to a multitude of public and private sector organisations; specifically to the National Crime Agency, Home Office, multiple regional organised crime units around the country, CREST, Cyber Security Challenge, CyberFirst, RANT, the Serious Organised Crime National Conference and Serious Organised Crime Exchange Conference, the parliamentary commission on autism, Hampshire Constabulary, West Midlands Police, and the national autistic society. I am a strong advocate for autism spectrum disorder awareness, and have appeared on national television multiple times - most notably BBC click's Fear and Coding in Las Vegas, and ITV's tonight show Can Crooks Hack Your Home - in order to raise awareness of the current cyber crime landscape. I have worked and currently work closely with many educational facilities including Sheffield Hallam University, Bath College, the Open University, and Huddersfield University, where i provide guest lecturing and research support. After experiencing severe shortcomings in my own mental health during my teenagehood, and witnessing first hand the impact poor mental health has on the ability to fulfil conventional educational standards, I have chosen to publicise and promote my own experiences in the hope that it may offer support and possible remediation to others experiencing similar issues. I am often called upon as an industry expert and have been perfecting my knowledge of puzzles and cyber security since I was 10 years old. The sole aims of my work and life are to inspire young people to follow legal cyber security careers instead of committing cyber crime, and to support and raise awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

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Chayann Bradford

Founder of Hidden Code
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Chayann Bradford

As a 19-year-old Computer Science student, I became acutely aware of the lack of diversity in the tech sector and resolved to change it. I founded Hidden Code to encourage girls into tech and I act as an ambassador for Ada, the National College for Digital Skills and for Modern Muse.

Being a young woman in tech, I know that I am frequently in the minority. I was inspired by the history immortalised in Hidden Figures; the struggle of women who have gone before and the legacy they’ve left behind. This drove me to found Hidden Code, a project to get more girls pursuing tech. The program challenges the existing perceptions of tech and shows others that it is not ‘just for boys’. I’m determined to encourage young girls to embrace computer science and give them an insight into the diverse range of digital careers they can have. I do this by visiting secondary schools to target Year 9 girls (13-14-year-olds) and have them participate in Python workshops where they can develop basic coding skills and start to get excited about what a future in the digital sector could hold. Hidden Code has had offers of support from Salesforce, Cognizant, and Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and we are doing more every day. I intend to leave a valuable legacy behind and contribute to the technology sector in an impactful way by increasing the percentage of women in tech.

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Ruben De Noronha

Chairman of RDN Companies
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Ruben De Noronha

Aged 13 Ruben started building apps from his bedroom, over time this transformed into a business and started to work with brands including Logitech & Google, delivering marketing campaigns with a team.

Our platform on YouTube and our news publication exhaustively cover breaking news across the technology landscape that encompasses the mobile industry, computing, life styles and all things tech. Our digital channels have a subscriber base of over 1.5 million and have attracted a combined audience of over 280 million globally. Team TS strives to be the leading digital publisher of technology news and reviews by delivering original content though our digital channels to ensure our readers and viewers are up to date, well-informed and entertained whilst providing a best in class service to our sponsors and corporate partners.

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Larissa Suzuki

Head of Data Science Founders4Schools
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Larissa Suzuki

2017 Women's Engineering Society "Young Woman Engineer of the Year", entrepreneur and inventor who advanced the field of smart cities, IoT and AI. She's received honours from Intel, Google, McKinsey&Co, MIT, Microsoft for her contributions to technology and international science. She leads Founders4Schools's AI, and formerly led smart cities programs for the Mayor of London.

 

My work has pioneered data infrastructures and platforms for smart cities, creating designs for smart cities platforms for more than 40 global cities, and I authored the first smart cities data strategy in the world (Data for London - A city Data Strategy), which was for London's Government. In both projects part of the £22M grant of the Horizon 2020, I led a group of 40+ European Cities and Industry experts on the design of urban platforms and procurement templates for smart cities design. My work entailed creating the entire technical specifications of urban platforms (technological backbone infrastructure, data standards and protocols, distributed services, security and trust mechanisms) and their integration with pervasive technologies being embedded on the urban environment (e.g. sensors, actuators, smart infrastructure, trains, roads, etc). This work delivered urban platforms in which data is collected in a secure and privacy preserving manner (ethical by design) and distributed across stakeholders and other cities. It offers unprecedented opportunities to solve urban challenges (e.g. water scarcity, pollution, congestion, safety). Besides working on the technical aspects and serving as the interface between technology industry and city leaders, I was also involved in creating strategies and plans for work, responsible for prioritising, assessing the impact of new features and datasets and communicating requirements and stakeholder's needs, as well as create business cases to justify open standards and protocols and an interoperable infrastructure for smart services to be built upon.

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Myles Jardine

Founder Grant Fairy
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Myles Jardine

21 y/o | Founder of www.GrantFairy.com -- a mobile app which helps students find scholarships to pay university tuition fees. Working with The Prince's Trust & other charities to promote diversity & social mobility.

In my final year of high-school, the fear of graduating with a £50,000 debt forced me to abandon my dreams of going to university. I was determined to make sure other students would not be put in a similar position and in June 2017 I began developing GrantFairy: a mobile app which matches students with scholarship opportunities. The common misconception is that scholarships are only available for high-flyers and Hawking-level geniuses, but that is not the case. The problem is, university tuition fees have only recently become an issue. Consequently, we don’t have the same awareness of scholarships that they do in countries like the US, where college tuition has always been paid. They have developed a “scholarship culture”, but in the UK few people are aware that scholarships exist. And worse, you can’t just Google “university scholarship” and expect to find relevant results: the data is a mess and finding funds is like looking for a needle… not in a haystack, but in big stack of other needles. The development of the app and the collating of the scholarship database has taken me 9 months, working 15-hour days, seven days a week. But it’s been worth it. I officially launched the app in mid-January (fully cross-platform -iOS, Android and WebApp) and since then it has been downloaded thousands of times and has matched students with over £320 million in scholarship opportunities. GrantFairy works, and I believe it has the power to revolutionise the UK student funding system.

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Sam Patchitt

Co-Founder Yellow Label
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Sam Patchitt

Sam met and formed his YellowLabel team at University in 2016, and since then, has gone on to build a business aiming to prevent food waste in the UK through the use of digital technology.

Sam is passionate about preventing food waste which resulted in the creation of an app called YellowLabel, that aims to prevent food waste by advertising reduced price food. Through a map or list, the app user is able to see all the local retailers using YellowLabel, tap on a store to view all their reduced price products, and if interested, can go and buy them! Having been living the student lifestyle when YellowLabel started, saving money was also an interest for Sam. By analysing user data,YellowLabel will be able to accurately match users with relevant items based on their preferences. This will help to prevent waste through increased service accuracy and save money for the consumer on their favourite items. Sam was awarded funding from ‘The Environment Now’ (which is funded by Our Bright Future and O2, and managed by the National Youth Agency), and was therefore able to trial YellowLabel in Leeds city centre. Collaborating with just 4 stores over 5 weeks, YellowLabel had nearly 400 downloads, and advertised nearly 14,000 items that were reduced to clear. Sam also worked with The Real Junk Food Project to advertise their pop-up ‘pay as you feel’ restaurant. This work lead the team to be noted as one of the UK’s rising tech stars for 2017. Since planning and executing this city trial, Sam has set his sights on the financial future of the company, and planning a second, bigger region-wide test with some of the UK’s biggest retailers.

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