Blackwood Design Awards - Judging Panel Revealed for thrilling final in 2018

We are delighted to finally reveal the line-up of the judging panel in the Blackwood Design Awards 2017/18. The panel this year brings together eight judges with varied backgrounds and experience to put the finalists, their designs and pick winners in four different categories. Some are returning judges from previous years and there are some newcomers too.


Some New Faces


Joining the panel for the first time, Gavin Neate has over 20 years’ experience working to empower people who have disabilities, initially as a guide dog trainer and then 5 years ago he founded his award-winning company Neatebox, that uses digital technology to remove accessibility barriers from society.


Speaking to bespoken Gavin said, “having spent 18 years working directly with blind and visually impaired people and have seen first-hand the challenges they face on a daily basis.


I hope my experience of both practical and technological solutions, as well as my experience in setting up and running a technology company, will be of use within this esteemed panel.”


Another new addition to the judging panel, Ryan MacDonald is well known across a number of fields in Scotland. “I'm a manual wheelchair user and for the last 13 years I have been working with disabled people in areas such as accessibility, housing and sport.

 Gavin Neate, CEO/ Founder of Neatebox

Contests like the Blackwood Design Awards encourage concepts, designs and products from a whole cross section of the community. Anyone can create the next life changing design. From an engineer in Dundee, through to a product designer in India.”


Robyn Love first came to Blackwood’s attention 3 years ago as a star player for Lothain Phoenix wheelchair basketball team. Today the 27 year old Paralympian is now part of British Team and competed at the Rio games in 2016 where the team achieved its best performance ever, reaching the semi-finals.


“I am very excited to be part of the Blackwood Design Awards. Blackwood  sponsored Lothian Phoenix when I 1st found wheelchair basketball so it’s quite surreal being part of their judging panel only 3 years later.” ­Robyn Love, GB Paralympian

Robyn Love, GB Paralympian


We're delighted to also welcome to the judging panel Fiona Thwaites, who has decades of experience in the housing and care sector and is also a Member of Blackwood, and Professor Lorne Crerar, Chairman of Harper Macleod LLP and one of the most distinguished members of Scotland's legal profession.

Some Familiar Faces


Anne Walker sits on the board of Blackwood Homes and Care and her breadth of knowledge comes from years spent working closely with the Scottish housing and care charity as well as her personal experience as a mobility scooter user.


This will be the fourth year that Anne has sat on the judging panel.

“The competition gets more exciting each year, with everything from everyday gadgets to travelling and comfort use items. The standard each year just keeps getting better. The Blackwood Design Award makes a huge difference to the people trying to get on the ladder with their inventions, we are recognised as leaders of innovation and I think this is reflected in the   high standard and number of entries we get.” 

Anne Walker, Blackwood Board Member

Other returning judges include Toby Mildon, whose work is focused on improving inclusivity and accessibility in organisations, and Richard Neville, Editor in Chief of Morning Newspapers at DCT Media. Both judges will be making their second appearance on the panel.


Remembering last year’s competition, Richard recalls:


“I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process last year which opened my eyes to the quality and inventiveness in this sector. It was wonderful to see the creative talent the competition attracted, and the clear application of the ideas showed why the awards are so important. This year I’m looking forward to seeing even more great ideas and doing what I can to help with the really difficult process of picking winners.”

Richard Neville, Editor - DC Thomson

The full list of judges is as follows:


  1. Gavin NeateEntrepreneur, CEO/Founder of Neatebox


  1. Anne WalkerBlackwood Board member


  1. Toby MildonDiversity and Inclusion Lead at Deloitte, BBC Ouch blogger


  1. Robyn LoveGB Wheelchair Basketball Team, Paralympian


  1. Professor Lorne CrerarChairman of Harper Macleod LLP


  1. Richard NevilleEditor in Chief of Morning Newspapers at DCT Media


  1. Ryan MacDonaldAmbassador Network Manager at Euan’s Guide


  1. Fiona ThwaitesSocial Housing & Care Expert, Blackwood Member



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