WATCH | Paralympian Claire helps road test Larne man’s winning innovation
A Larne engineer who worked alongside local Paralympian Claire Taggart to design, develop and test a revolutionary new wheelchair chassis has scooped the top prize in a Mid and East Antrim Borough Council business innovation competition.
Warren Rea’s winning solution enables users to cover more ground by clicking their existing chair onto a specially designed chassis, allowing access to rough terrain such as beaches and forest paths, and he hopes the award will help him bring his design to market and ‘open a whole new world’ for those who need assistance with their mobility.
Warren’s business, Pro22innovations, specialises in innovative engineering design and 3D printing solutions, and he has worked with global companies including Thales Air Defence, Bombardier, Terumo, P&O Irish ferries, Wrightbus and Camlin Technologies.
The Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Peter Johnston, visited Warren to see the design for himself.
Warren was announced the winner of Council’s Start-Up and Innovate Award to mark the beginning of this year’s Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW), which runs November 16 to 22.
Entrants were whittled down to a shortlist of finalists before the judges’ panel which included Michael Johnston, Invest NI Innovation Executive and Karen Gilgunn, Marketing, Communications and Business Development Manager at USEL revealed the Larne man as their winner.
The purpose of the competition was to identify and champion local businesses that are developing innovations with the potential to deliver wider societal benefits.
With a top prize of £1,500 plus specialist business development mentoring support and PR, and runners-up prizes of £250, the competition attracted a high standard of entries.
The runner’s up places went to Andrea and Zslot Bohar who produce the Green Fingers Family range of vegan granolas sold in biodegradable packaging and Deborah Fitzsimmons who launched an online learning environment Homeschool on Demand after the introduction of the lockdown earlier this year.
The Mayor said: “I was delighted to announce Warren as the winner of Council’s Start-Up and Innovate competition. To see such a creative concept for improving access for wheelchair users highlights the true spirit of entrepreneurship which exists in the borough, across all levels of business.
“There has never been a more important time for businesses to be able to adapt and develop ways of remaining resilient to change and planning for the future as we continue to navigate our way through the Coronavirus pandemic.
“I would like to congratulate all those who took part in the competition and wish them every success in their ongoing work. A special word of congratulations to the runners-up for their fantastic ideas.”
Pro22Innovations Director, Warren Rea, added: “Winning this award will enable us to progress towards getting the product onto the market and to those in the disability community who are faced with so many challenges with regards to enjoying the freedom we all take for granted. This all-terrain power wheelchair will open up a whole new world for them and improve on their quality of life.”
WATCH: Warren shares details of the new wheelchair design and what winning this award means to his business