Winner Focus - Vanessa Jenkins

This month, we revisit the 2018 Janet Wood Award-winning Nombrero and its creator, Vanessa Jenkins, to find out more about her journey.


Vanessa Jenkins is a Biology and Marine Sciences Technician at Plymouth University.

She has worked in Zoos before and after studying Animal Sciences and Conservation at University. While working in Zoos and Aquariums,Vanessa got to design and review different enrichment products every day. This experience inspired her to take part in the competition and improve the welfare of lab mice.


She designed the Nombrero to hold wet food in a mouse cage at an easily accessible height. It keeps the food from getting into contact with the cage bedding and provides added enrichment for the mice by allowing them to stretch.

Here’s all you need to know about her experience with the Janet Wood Innovation Award…

The Nombrero in action


Q: How long have you been in the industry?

“I started working as an animal technician almost two years ago. Previously I worked in zoos for around five years.”


Q: What is the purpose of the product you designed?


“The aim of the product is to improve the welfare of laboratory mice by providing easily accessible and cleanwet diet.”


Q: Where did the idea for your product originate from?


“I wanted to fix a problem,the problem being that wet food placed into bedding makes cages dirty very quickly.”


Q: How does the product promote one or more of the 3rs?


“This product aims to improve refinement by improving welfare with easily accessible clean wet feed.”


Q: What would you say are the 3 main things to consider when designing a brand new product?


“1- Purpose – Does the product have a need and would you use it?


2- The design itself – What material it’s made from, the size and what is its unique selling point?


3- Shipping and storage – Can you stack the product to reduce storage and shipping space requirements? “


Q: Did you face any challenges when designing your product?if so, how did you overcome them?


“I knew I wanted something hat could hold wet food, not fall over and be reused. I came up with loads of different designs so picking one was a challenge.


I asked if you could submit more than one and Datesand said yes, so I sent three in the hope that one of them would be picked.”


Q: What would you say to someone looking to submit a product to the Janet Wood Innovation Award in the future?


“Keep it simple, provide plenty of images or videos that show the product and make it memorable, maybe with a catchy name.”

You can find out more about the nombrero here.


Vanessa recently visited the 2019 ANZLAA conference in Perth as her prize for winning the competition. You can see how she spent he rtime with this fantastic video.


To start your Janet Wood Innovation Award journey,download an application pack now.

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