The Innovate Story

We spent the last 20 years getting better at helping inventors and startups to develop product ideas on tight budgets.

Find out how we went from one inventor’s mission to make it easier for individuals to develop their ideas, to an award-winning design studio exporting British design services to inventors around the world.

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Alastair Swanwick founds Innovate Design

Alastair forms Innovate Design to help inventors and start-ups to develop ideas on tight budgets. It is born of his own experience trying to launch his own product ideas and the frustrating lack of companies able to help inventors like him


Worldwide Patent Search service launches

Innovate launches a Worldwide Patent Search service to help clients complete a thorough search of existing IP before further committing to the project

Lord Sugar recommends Innovate Design

Lord Sugar writes his first recommendation for Innovate Design in his “Spoonful of Sugar” newspaper column


Patent Drafting service launches

Innovate launches a Patent Draft service to provide a cost-effective alternative to existing patent attorneys


Design Studio moves to Endless Street, Salisbury

The company moves into a larger design studio and installs a prototype workshop and test facility


First US office opens

Innovate opens an office in San Francisco to help UK inventors break into the US


Business Innovation Award

Innovate Design wins the Business Innovation Award


First Paris office opens

The Paris office helps Innovate to export UK design to Europe


App services launch

Innovate launches app development services to help inventors and startups create better apps, for less


Innovate celebrates its 20th year

Innovate has grown to over 35 employees exporting exceptional British design services to the US, Europe and around the UK

Innovate appears on The Apprentice

Innovate is asked by the BBC to help apprentice candidates to develop a smart toothbrush and app in less than 15 hours! Innovate’s designers feature in The Sun, The Telegraph and on BBC radio. Alastair presents Lorde Sugar with a toothbrush to thank him for his support over the years

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Barbara and James appointed Co-MD roles

Alastair moves to Chairman and appoints Barbara Bouffard and James McInerny as Co-Managing Directors. Barbara and James set out their vision for the future of Innovate with a focus on offering clients enhanced support for finding investment and licensing opportunities


Innovate delivers Product Design module for The University of Warwick

Top 5 business school, The University of Warwick, asked us to create and deliver the product design module for their Innovation and Entrepreneurship masters degree.

Meet the team


Alastair Swanwick

Founder, Chairman

Alastair founded Innovate in 2001 and spent the next 20 years growing Innovate to become the place to develop new product ideas. He is a founding member of the California Invention Centre, a member of Design Innovation Plastics Student Awards Organising Committee, a fellow of Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce and was a co-presenter of BBC Knowledge ‘Science Fix’ show.

In 2021 Alastair became Chairman and now uses his extensive business knowledge to develop Innovate’s business support services.


Barbara Bouffard

Co-MD, Head of Operations

Barbara Bouffard is Co-Managing Director at Innovate Design, a company that she initially founded 20 years ago with her husband Alastair to support inventors to bring their ideas to commercial reality. Educated at Business School in Bordeaux, Barbara is working towards an MBA at the University of Bath.

At Innovate, Barbara organises the design and delivery of the automated business systems that ensure Innovate delivers projects on time and at a market-beating price.


James McInerny

Co-MD, Head of Design

James has been developing commercial products since 2007 including helping develop award-winning smart lighting products for UK startup Halcyon and helping Richard Browning build early prototypes for his jet suit project “Gravity Industries”. James occasionally learns from his own experiments like Hark – a necklace designed using soundwaves and 3d printed in metal.

At Innovate, James manages Innovate’s design process and oversees the development of client projects to make sure every product is developed for the best chance of commercial success.


Client Managers

Your idea development guides

Our knowledgeable client management team help our clients navigate the idea development process. Development can feel complicated but our team are on hand with useful information and support throughout the process



Product development experts

Our award-winning team of UK-based designers includes specialists in product design, electronics, engineering, app development, fabric product design, packaging, branding and more. Our broad selection of designers and state-of-the-art facilities enables us to do more in-house and create leading designs on tight budgets.

Worldwide Patent Search


Idea investigators

Our research team covers intellectual property, customer, market and business research. Overseen by a UK patent attorney and with subscriptions, to commercial databases the team can conduct thorough research which can inform the direction of your design and help you avoid wasting money.

How can we help with your project?

 If you would like to work with us, submit your idea online to receive a free initial consultation with one of our client managers.