British Council rewards the young design entrepreneur

Despite a wealth of awards up for grabs for the most talented designers, most celebrate creative work rather than acknowledging business acumen.

But the British Council’s UK Young Design Entrepreneur Awards, won last week by ceramicist Andrew Tanner, aim to champion young designers who excel in business strategy and have firmly established themselves.

Market awareness and talent management are key considerations for the judges. Karen Kindley, the awards’ acting programme manager, says, ’Winners don’t have to be stereotypical Alan Sugar-types. They’re agents of change, shifting and shaping their sector.’

As well as celebrating British entrepreneurship, the awards aim to advance young designers by developing partnerships. The awards’ alumni have an opportunity to join the UK Young Creative Entrepreneurs Club, which features talks from leading industry figures and will this year fuel several collaborations, says Kindley.

Forming strong business relationships is also part of the judging process. Shortlisted candidates tour a chosen country – Turkey this year – to set up partnerships and meet industry experts. They then submit a proposal outlining how they would develop these links if they win.

Tanner plans to use the £5000 prize money to collaborate with fellow finalist Nick Rawcliffe in research project Quest. It aims to explore how collaborations can be made between the two economies, and bridge the gap between Turkey’s traditional industries and the advanced manufacturing technology that now exists there.

Both Tanner and Rawcliffe stress the importance of recognising the business skills behind the creative industries. Rawcliffe says, ’People watch Dragon’s Den and think it’s really simple. The ideas are the easy bit, the hard work is taking them forward.’

In the ten years since establishing his first enterprise, Tanner has risen to the top ranks of ceramics. He is head designer for industry giants Poole Pottery and Royal Stafford, and also runs his own design studio in Leicester.

Concerned that, in the run up to the London Olympics, tourist information centres were awash with products that said little about British culture and were often made in China, Tanner developed the Souvenirs Worth Giving collection in collaboration with Arts Council England.

The range features plates punctured with scenes from British park life and mugs emblazoned with regional slogans like ’Lovely jubbly’ and ’Grim up North’. Tanner says, ’I wanted to make products that, like a stick of rock, had a strong story running through them, both in British design and manufacturing.’

UKYDE Awards judge Gus Desbarats, director of The Alloy, says Tanner’s proactive approach and development of his business model impressed the judges. ’His humorous take on Britishness was relevant to Turkey in understanding and interpreting its own culture, rather than just producing an international style,’ says Desbarats.

Tanner says, ’There’s a really integral design scene in Istanbul and a strong appetite for design. There’s also a fantastic craft heritage, but it’s not being used in a contemporary arena.’ Tanner and Rawcliffe hope to bring Turkish work to London Design Festival, and create similar opportunities for British designers in Istanbul.

UK Young Creative Entrepreneur Awards

  • The UKYCE Awards were launched in 2007 to run alongside the existing international entrepreneur awards
  • There are nine disciplines covered by the awards/ design, communications, fashion, interactive, music, performing arts, publishing, screen and visual arts
  • The UKYCE club, made from awards alumni, provides talks from guest speakers such as Orla Kiely founder Dermott Rowan and a chance to network with creatives from other disciplines

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