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Successful innovators from across the globe gather at LBS for Real Innovation Awards

Successful innovators from across the globe descended on London Business School for the third Real Innovation Awards.

Winners of the six categories in the People’s Choice and Judges’ Choice were celebrated on the night. Each win showcased the qualities of tenacity, originality, good timing and serendipity, which the awards are becoming known for – the real ingredients of innovation.

The judges selected Gerard Vidal from Enigmedia for the Alexander Fleming Serendipity Award. This award is for a person or organisation that built a thriving business on an idea that originated in the most unexpected or surprising way.

Gerard Vidal, who won the judges’ award, was with his wife in hospital and their new baby, but his message was delivered by his sister Ares Vidal. “Whatever happens just keep doing what you are doing and try to change the world,” she said.

Tarek al Emam from Freezmate collected the People’s Choice award in the same category. The business has developed a suite of heating and cooling products, including mattresses for refugees.

In the only instance of the people agreeing with the expert choice, Zimbabwe-based EcoCash collected both the Judges’ and People’s Choice accolades in the Best Beats First Award. This award is for the company that moved quickly to dominate an emerging market category, typically with a different and better business model than the first mover. EcoCash did this in Zimbabwe by providing banking to millions through their mobile phones.

The Judges’ Choice for the George Bernard Shaw Unreasonable Person Award went to Charles Khairallah from Robotics Design Inc. The company’s modular snake robots are revolutionary because of their unique design, ease of use and wide range of applications. This award is for an individual who has shown enormous tenacity and stubbornness in pursuing an idea, despite the difficulties encountered along the way. Founder Charles Khairallah overcame stubborn incumbents and union opposition.

Mohammed Aldhalaan with Noon Academy took the People’s Choice Award. It was recognised for its revolutionary approach to booking tutors online in its native Saudi Arabia.

The Harnessing the Winds of Change Award is for those who spot what’s just around the corner soon enough to take advantage of it.

Improbable, which creates virtual reality worlds, scooped the Judges Choice, while Tracy Young from PlanGrid took the People’s Choice. Young has pioneered the use of iPads to deliver massive organisational improvements on building sites.

The If At First You Don’t Succeed Award celebrates an individual or organisation who tried something that didn’t work out – but which provided the stepping-stone for a subsequently successful outcome. The judges chose Payal Kadakia and ClassPass, which offers a unique way to book dance classes.

“Given the number of times Payal Kadakia almost failed, the judges felt that this was the most appropriate category. The saying goes ‘if you stumble make it part of dance’,” said Jeff Skinner, Secretary to Judging Committee and Executive Director of the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

The People’s Choice award went to father and son team Chen and Zvi Nachum whose product, Livia, blocks menstrual cramps using electronic pulses.

The Masters of Reinvention Award was hotly contested. The judges chose WOG, a Ukrainian oil-trading business turned convenience store chain.

“Today WOG is unrecognisable,” said Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship and Deputy Dean, and panel judge Julian Birkinshaw. “Not so much reinvention as reincarnation.”

Introducing the People's Choice winner, Professor Birkinshaw said Italian energy giant Enel impressed the panel through its embrace of renewable sources of power. “Every company is pushing in this direction but Enel have gone further than anyone else,” he said.