With 11% of Gen Z’s and 12% of millennials (aged 25-34) intending to start a business in 2022, it’s tremendous news that four young Welsh-based Entrepreneurs have been announced as winners in this year’s Young Innovator Awards – a catalytic programme that’s co-funded by Cardiff Capital Region and fully supported by the Venture Skills & Talent hub.
In the second feature of our four-part celebration of those remarkable winners, we discover how Beren Kayali has brought to life her vision for manufacturing portable storage tanks – a unique innovation that can store water to be used by communities and farmers in countries where this essential of life is a scarce and priceless commodity…
A journey of endeavour, enterprise and intellectual energy
As co-founder of Deploy, Beren is creating the first-ever foldable and inflatable water tank that aims to tackle water storage problems – with a flat-packed solution that’s easily transported and deployed in 24 hours, making it a particularly valuable innovation for poor rural communities. Her journey to this point has been a story of hard-wired endeavour, astounding enterprise and intellectual energy – winning a scholarship to a prestigious boarding school in her native Turkey at the age of eight and overcoming many obstacles in pursuit of her dreams.
“I didn’t realise it at the age of eight, but winning that scholarship was one of the most incredible things that could have happened to me” reflects Beren. “They were ahead of their time and at a young age I became involved in Robotics as well as being exposed to US schools that were working with Boeing and Nasa. I was blown away by being around young people working on major real-life engineering challenges – and knew from that point on that I was born to be an engineer.
“Above all I wanted to be a Mechanical Engineer, hands-on in the workshop – but making things that were beautiful rather than raw-looking. My Masters degree enabled me to do that, gaining work experience with companies such as Siemens, before joining the design team of a Turkish prototyping company, designing the prototype for cars, yachts and many other feats of engineering.
“I then became aware of a unique course created jointly by the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London – a two-year course in the UK capital where art meets science, bringing together the thinking of a leading art institution and one of the world’s pre-eminent engineering colleges. I crowdfunded the money needed for the first year, then held down three different jobs in STEM to pay for my second year in London, managing to win some accolades and awards along the way – thankful to be working as hard as I could to do justice to everyone who had shown faith in me and supported me.
Tackling water storage problems for the world
“That course changed my life in so many ways. The father of my best friend on the course was a civil engineer involved in water management on the Go Global project in Kenya. I visited the project with my friend and saw the indescribable way people had to live in Africa’s largest slum, which had a handful of toilets for two million people.
“Returning to the UK, I worked with my friend – the co-founder of Deploy – to discover a material that would enable us to build lightweight, superstrong, super sustainable water storage units that can be used in rural places. We patented the product, investment quickly followed and the whole thing snowballed to where we are right now.
“In amongst all of that, the Young Innovators Award has been very important to me. It’s recognition of all that I believe in – giving me even more motivation to keep going. I know that Deploy is enabling us to enhance life and save life – and it couldn’t come at a more important time, as climate change causes the destruction of more environments, with more and more wildfires destroying flora, fauna and human lives.
“Our product can provide a water supply capable of fighting these fires, as well as helping rural communities have the essentials of life that most of us take for granted. I hope as we continue to develop Deploy to its full potential – and my own story in STEM can inspire other people from all genders and backgrounds to pursue and achieve their own goals.”
Established in 2017 by Innovate UK and The Prince's Trust to nurture our next generation of experts and influencers, The Young Innovators Programme supports the fresh perspectives needed to challenge accepted norms, celebrating the entrepreneurial enthusiasm and immense potential of our youth – and we’re proud to be showcasing those Welsh Winners who are changing the world through their groundbreaking innovations.
We’re looking forward to reporting on Beren’s progress in maximising the full potential of Deploy. For now, if you would like to know about the Young Innovators Awards and the story of our ‘Welsh Winners’, go to www.venturewales.org