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Brunel University student wins Design Innovation in Plastics competition with balcony shelf product

Judges hooked by versatility of design

A student from Brunel University has scooped top prize in the annual Design Innovation in Plastics (DIP)competition with a cleverly designed shelf which can fit on a balcony railing and carry anything from a plant to a bottle of wine.
Product Design student, Alex Roquero, impressed the competition judges with his ‘Hook’ shelf, which is integrated with a flowerbox, and fits to any kind of railing – ideal for people who have no garden, or reduced space, and want something which hooks onto a balcony.

Thanks to its unique shape, as well as plants, it can also carry day-to-day products such as coffee mugs, wine glasses, beer bottles or even books.

DIP, which is organised by the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining and the Worshipful Company of Horners, and headline industry sponsored by Covestro, gave students the brief of ‘Branching Out – Design For Garden Innovation’.

They were asked to come up with an innovative product, primarily from plastics, which could be used in a garden, that would better connect people with nature, enhance the pleasure of gardening or leisure activities within the garden, or help sooth mind and body after a long and stressful day.

Chairman of judges, Richard Brown, commented: “It was evident that this product could become a marketable item, as living spaces become smaller, and more ‘Juliet’ balconies are integrated into new builds, especially in Europe. Alex tackled a problem that he was familiar with from the environment in his home country of Spain, and took a holistic approach to provide a multi-purpose solution. We were impressed by the way he took into consideration all the elements of the brief, from initial concept, patent and IP search, manufacturability, point of sale options and sustainability. He used polypropylene, which has the mechanical properties required for this kind of product and is completely recyclable.”

Alex Roquero - ‘Hook’ shelf

Winner, Alex Roquero, centre with, left to right, Brunel University tutor, Fabrizio Ceschin, Hans Eberhard-Stein, Covestro; Master of Horners, Gordon Haines; CEO of IOM3, Bernie Rickinson, and prize sponsors, Hugo Revellat, PDD; and Richard Brown, RJG Technologies.

Alex wins a trip to Germany to visit the competition headline industry sponsor, the polymers manufacturer, Covestro, and placements with competition sponsors, RJG Technology, which provides injection moulding industry support, training and advisory services, and PDD, the product and service design and innovation consultancy.

He said taking part in the competition and getting this far had driven him to develop expertise and gain experience in areas he had not studied before and to be especially aware of considerations such as sustainability, which had influenced even small decisions in the design and production of his balcony shelf.
“Being able to produce a physical working prototype helped me realise how challenging and satisfying it is to make your designs work in real life,” he added.

In second place was William Oughton, an Integrated Product Design student, also from Brunel University. William created ‘Bulb Garden Furniture’, a concept set of garden accessories which fit to any type of panel, wire or post built fences, and can be used as bird feeders, planters, bird houses or solar outdoor light.

In third was Olivia Alexander, a Product Design Student from De Montfort University, with Buzz, a bee-friendly planter which administers an anti-mite substance directly to the bees to protect them from the Varroa mite.

Three other students gained highly commended:

Lewis Brown, Teesside University: Dynamic Grip – an ergonomic garden multi-tool targeting gardeners with arthritis.
Fatima Abedi Manji, De Montfort University: Gingko – a planter for urban spaces designed specifically with children in mind to help their development and promote the joy of gardening.
Zeina Mofti, Brunel University: G Cycle – a product which combines modern indoor gardening with home aquariums to enhance wellbeing, by providing a calm and relaxing environment.

Zeina Mofti - G Cycle

The six student finalists are pictured, centre, with their prizes. They are, Olivia Alexander, Fatima Manji, Zeina Mofti, winner Alex Roquero, Lewis Brown and William Oughton. With them are, left to right, key speaker, Rob Law MBE, founder and CEO of Trunki; Hans Eberhard-Stein, brand and live COM, Covestro; Master of Horners, Gordon Haines; the CEO of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, Bernie Rickinson; and the chairman of DIP, Martin Sixsmith, formerly of Bayer MaterialScience, now Covestro.

All the finalists are being offered a short placement with one of the competition sponsors, Brightworks, HellermannTyton, Innovate Product Design, PDD and RJG Technologies, as part of their prize. In addition, the ‘Covestro Award’, goes to Olivia Alexander, who will also be invited to Germany with the winner to visit Covestro.

The Design Innovation in Plastics Award is the longest running student plastics design competition in Europe, having been established in 1985.