Protolabs launches £50,000 scheme to turn cool ideas into reality

A £50,000 annual awards scheme to turn cool ideas into reality has been launched across Europe by digital manufacturer Protolabs.

The Cool Idea Award gives applicants across Europe a chance to win help from Telford-based Protolabs – a manufacturer of custom prototypes and on-demand production parts – to get their bright ideas off the ground.

Protolabs, which has 3D printing, CNC machining and injection moulding facilities across Europe, is offering up to £50,000 of prototyping and manufacturing services every year under the scheme.

Protolabs’ design expert, Ray Faulkner, said the scheme had originally been established by the company in 2011 and had been hugely successful in helping inventors, entrepreneurs and small companies across the United States launch innovative new products.

“Great product ideas emerge every day but far too many of these promising ideas end up being scrapped because product development resources are scarce. Our Cool Idea Award will help turn those inspiring concepts into real-life products.

“The grants can be used to build prototypes or even an initial production run and offer a tremendous opportunity for engineers and inventors to shout to the industry about how great their idea is.

“The sort of thing we mean by a ‘cool idea’ is simply a product that would make life a little better, easier, safer, healthier, less frustrating or more fun – for individuals or communities.”

The European awards will run independently of those in America and will be split over four quarterly programmes to help support as many innovations as possible.

Application periods for the awards each year are April 1 to May 31, July 1 to August 31 and October 1 to November 30.

Among past winners of the awards in the US is Rory Aronson of FarmBot, an automated precision farming system. The manufacturing grant helped Rory and his team manufacture injection moulded parts for farming systems that can now be purchased through the FarmBot website.

Aronson said: “The Cool Idea Award came at the perfect time for us as we were transitioning from smaller quantities to larger production volumes.” FarmBot has since gone on to work with NASA on a project that aims to establish a botany laboratory on Mars.

For more information about entry criteria for the awards and additional rules and regulations, visit

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