The Elements of Innovation Awards are back for 2018. Taking place during the UK’s only dedicated furniture components show, Elements and woodworking machinery and materials show, the W Exhibition. The awards will see pioneering product entries from the show’s exhibitors shortlisted to be in with the chance of winning a prestigious Gold, Silver or Bronze award. 

The independent judging panel – who have been chosen to represent key areas of the furniture design and manufacturing industry – will be made up of members from the Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers’, the Institute of Carpenters, Buckinghamshire New University, the British Woodworking Federation and joinery and interior fit-out company, Edmont Ltd. 

The final products will be shortlisted by the judges before the event, and will be available to view in the show’s dedicated Elements of Innovation Zone. The awards will be presented to the winners on Monday 1st October at 3pm. The presentation is open to all visitors and will offer the audience a unique opportunity to see the best products new to the market and talk to the winners about their award-winning products. 

So, who’s who on the judging panel? 

Helen Hewitt, British Woodworking Federation

A textile designer by trade, Helen Hewitt is a self-proclaimed creative design junky with a scrupulous eye for detail. Transferring her skills into the manufacturing sector more than 15 years ago, Hewitt is now acting CEO of the British Woodworking Federation. Hewitt brings a wealth of experience in both design and manufacturing to the judging panel and with a clear passion for encouraging young talent and empowering originality, she wants the awards to be a platform to inspire the industry and celebrate its achievements.

Hewitt adds: “There is something very special about being part of something that champions the industry. I have a great respect for people that can create something from nothing. It’s a real skill and one that needs to be recognised. Being a judge at the Elements of Innovation Awards is about honoring this achievement and giving both the company and the individuals the recognition they deserve. I’m excited to see how each entry has gone though the production process - from the initial concept to the final product – and to see the final product first hand.”

Gary Smith, Institute of Carpenters

With almost 40 years of experience in the furniture production sector, Gary Smith is no stranger to the world of design and manufacturing. Following a lengthy career as a carpenter and machinery programmer, Smith now specialises in commercial CAD design, working on a whole host of well-known shop fronts including Chanel and Patek Philippe. A board member of the Institute of Carpenters and a true advocate for the industry, Smith brings a great understanding of the complete manufacturing cycle to the judging panel. 

Smith adds, “I have a great interest in how things are made. I have been attending the W Exhibition for may years and for me, it has always been a hive of activity. To be asked to join the judging line-up is a great opportunity for me to immerse myself in an area I have great enthusiasm for and to put the latest innovations to the test.”

Paul Lighterness, Buckinghamshire New University

Paul Lighterness studied at the Royal College of Art and spent 15 years working in product design. From 3D model making to product visualisation, Lighterness’ creative skills and passion to inspire talent led him to his current role as Kitchen Design Course Leader at Buckinghamshire New University. The course, which was the first Kitchen Design course in the UK, works closely with the industry and has gained huge support from the likes of Blum, ArtiCAD and many other industry leaders.

Lighterness adds, “I’ve always had a great interest in design and innovation. I’m a firm believer in pushing the boundaries of design and adapting traditional techniques to create new and exciting products. To be part of the judging process means that I can gauge a true understanding of the design process, whilst appreciating the work and craftsmanship that goes into each entry.”

Hayden Davies, The Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers’

Former CEO of FIRA (the Furniture Industry Research Association) and Master of the Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers’, Hayden Davies has had an active role in the furniture industry for over 20 years. With a degree in Civil Engineering - which he gained from the University of Birmingham – Hayden has become a successful entrepreneur and an advocate for education and excellence in the furniture industry.

Davies adds, “Supporting innovation and encouraging talent goes right to the heart of what the Furniture Maker’s Company does. I believe if our industry is to survive and prosper in the modern, global world, innovation must play a critical role and we need to shout about our achievements. We should encourage innovation and celebrate its success wherever possible. I believe my time as CEO of FIRA gave me a broad experience of the furniture industry and the disciplines of impartiality, integrity and independence that I will endeavor to bring to the judging panel.”

Luke Parry, production manager at Edmont Joinery

Starting his career as an apprentice in the joinery and construction industry, Luke Parry’s natural interest and honed skills have seen him work on a range of projects from period home restoration to bespoke, cutting edge furniture design. Bringing a sense of practical application to the judging panel, Parry is not averse to testing unique products before they are put into production and, with experience in a wide range of manufacturing techniques, he appreciates the knowledge and commitment it takes to develop a groundbreaking product. 

Parry adds: “We are an industry that relies on highly skilled individuals and because of this, we need to reward talent wherever possible. Innovation can sound like a buzz word but pioneering techniques and original product design can make a huge difference to our industry and the way we create and design furniture. It’s not easy to develop a really good product that offers a wealth of benefits to its user, so we need to recognise and reward the people and companies behind the ideas.” 

Elements and the W Exhibition will be taking place from the 30th September-3rd October 2018 at the NEC, Birmingham. To register for your free ticket simply visit the shows website and join over 8000 industry professionals at the UK’s only dedicated furniture and joinery production event.