DORSET staff at a business which supports inventors have played a key role in the latest series of The Apprentice.

Innovate Design helped teams on the BBC reality show to create an electric toothbrush for children aged six to eight, along with an app to encourage brushing.

Bournemouth-based James McInerny, co-managing director of the firm, helped the producers design the challenge and led Innovate’s design team, which helped candidates produce working prototypes to pitch to buyers.

Mr McInerny studied at Bournemouth University and has remained in the county. Several other Dorset-based staff were also involved in the programme, broadcast last night.

Ben Shutler, from Southbourne, helped the boys’ team design a “wand” toothbrush whose shape and brown colour was mocked on the show. He said he had to design the brush “knowing full well what it looked like as I was drawing it”.

Alastair Swanwick, founder of Innovate Design, said: “Twenty years ago, when I set up the company, Lord Sugar wrote an article recommending us in his newspaper column. That article gave us the credibility we needed to launch a successful business and with our involvement in the latest series of The Apprentice, it feels like we have come full circle.

“We recognised that this particular Apprentice task would be a huge challenge due to the incredibly tight timescales involved. However, we knew we had the right set of skills in-house to take it on – and we love a challenge.

“We assembled a multi-skilled team of product development experts to handle the full process from concept sketching and brush design to electronics and app development, character creation and packaging design. We found the candidates easy to work with and I’m incredibly proud of what our team was able to create with them.”

Innovate had to come up with two new prototypes and two apps in 24 hours, a process that would typically take six months.

Its team were not permitted to assist the candidates with the design concept itself but supported them in delivering the finished prototypes.

The customised brush handles were printed on 3D printers, while the character designs were replicated in the accompanying app with animated games.

The Innovate Design team also developed the smart technology inside the toothbrush.

Mr McInerny said: “There is a saying in the design world – ‘fail fast and fail often’. This doesn’t mean you should try to fail but rather expect that things won’t work first time round. Instead, expect mistakes to happen and use any failures to your advantage.

“The candidates have made a lot of errors in these first couple of episodes and if they can learn from them, they can avoid making the same mistakes on future tasks and consequently, this will help them to make much better decisions.”

The programme is available on BBC iPlayer and more details are at