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Design graduate selected for £1m TV entrepreneur challenge

18 September 2012

Loughborough industrial Design graduate Ross Kemp took part in the high stakes entrepreneurial show, Be Your Own Boss, with his lifesaving invention, 'Asap'.

Ross Kemp at work on his innovative Asap lifesaving craft
Ross Kemp at work on his innovative Asap lifesaving craft

The show features Innocent Drinks co-founder, Richard Reed, in his quest to find the cream of young British talent. Reed has £1m to invest in the right ideas and Ross hopes to impress him with the lifesaving invention he developed at Loughborough University.

Ross had the idea for power assisted watercraft for beach lifeguards during lifesaving practice at Loughborough.  He devoted his final year project to developing a prototype for an electronic power assisted watercraft, to help lifeguards get out fast whilst conserving their energy to save lives at sea.  A cheaper alternative to a jet ski and easier to launch than a rigid inflatable boat (RIB), Asap is a one-person craft that can be solar charged.

Ross graduated from Loughborough in 2011 and began work as a product designer for leading floor-care brand Vax, but was eager to see if he could turn his idea into a commercial reality.  He was chosen as one of the first graduates to be supported by The Studio, the University’s initiative to help recent graduates’ business ventures.

Through the Studio, Ross has been able to refine his prototype with help from his former tutors in Loughborough Design School, using its workshops and design facilities.  The Studio has also teamed Ross up with experienced mentors who are helping him get his business plan in the best shape for investment.

“Being part of 'Be Your Own Boss' has been a life-changing experience which has really accelerated my business,” said Ross.  “It’s been exciting to get a new prototype built at the National Composites Centre and I’ve learned so much that will help me.”

Whilst on the show, Ross received unexpected support for Asap from Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson, who offered to fly the craft out to Bondi in Australia to be tested in some of the world’s most punishing surf.  Asap has received global interest from lifeguard directors, including the Port Elizabeth region which witnessed South Africa’s worst ever drowning tragedy in which six rugby players were swept out to sea in March 2012. 

Professor Steve Rothberg, the University’s Pro Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise, said: “At Loughborough, we are committed to doing all we can to support graduates who are taking their first steps in business.  Ross is an outstanding ambassador for graduate enterprise.  He achieved a first class degree, has embarked on a career in product design and is now building a successful business venture.  We recognised the merits of his business through our recruitment into the Studio and he fully deserves the recognition he is now receiving. I wish him every success for the future.”

Ross appeared on Be Your Own Boss on BBC 3 at 9pm on Wednesday 19 September. Catch up on the BBC iPlayer.

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