Introducing Zoe Laughlin, V&A Innovate Judge 2021 – 2022

Learning & National Programmes
October 20, 2021

We’re delighted to announce that Zoe Laughlin will be a judge for our V&A Innovate National Schools Challenge 2021 – 22. 

Zoe is a designer, maker and materials engineer who explores the art and science of stuff. 

She is co-founder and director of the Institute of Making and the Materials Library project. The Institute of Making is a multidisciplinary research club for those interested in the made world – from makers of molecules to makers of buildings, synthetic skin to spacecraft, soup to diamonds, and socks to cities.  

She has created many programmes for both radio and television including: The Things That Make Us podcast, How to Make, Big Life Fix, Secret Story of Stuff and Secret Life of Landfill. 

We are incredibly excited for her to bring her expertise and enthusiasm for materials and making to the judging panel this year. 

We spoke to Zoe about being on the panel, and the importance of design to her:  

What are you most looking forward to as a V&A Innovate judge, and why? 

I’m looking forward to those moments where entrants surprise and delight us. The little details that show someone enjoyed the process, reveal a new perspective or make one think differently about something overlooked. 

What do this year’s themes of Renew, Connect and Move mean to you?  

How long is a piece of string! They can and should mean many things to many people, that’s why they work well as themes. I don’t want to say anything more specific in case it makes people think what I say is what I’m looking for and thus head towards it.  

Why is design important to you? 

It is a way of demonstrating we care. 

What invention / innovation could you not live without? 

Pen and paper.

Can you share any top tips for students taking part in V&A Innovate this year? 

Don’t the afraid to make it personal and relate to what interests and matters to you, however silly or serious, big or small. 

Could your students’ ideas surprise and delight Zoe? Register to take part here and enter your students’ ideas by 7 January 2022. 


V&A Innovate is the V&A’s annual National Schools Challenge offering students in years 7, 8 and 9 the opportunity to design a solution to a real-world problem inspired by the V&A’s collections. 

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