Innovate UK to invest £20m in coronavirus R&D “resilience” projects

Businesses with innovative solutions to the country’s urgent needs amid the COVID-19 pandemic will be awarded up to £50,000 to further develop their ideas.

Innovate UK, the innovation arm of the UKRI research group, has issued a call to the country’s businesses to share and develop solutions to the global disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

As the UK adapts to life in lockdown, in which employment is precarious, schools are shut and public services are overwhelmed, the organisation is looking to R&D businesses to bolster the “resilience” of the country against long-term effects of the coronavirus.

Those interested in working with the organisation on this will need to submit a competitive pitch to Innovate UK, and successful entrants will be granted up to £50,000 in funding to further develop the idea.

“A variety of technologies, markets and applications”

Aware of the fact the coronavirus pandemic is affecting any and all aspects of daily life and work, Innovate UK has left the scope of the project deliberately open-ended.

The competition brief states the group is looking to fund “a portfolio of projects, across a variety of technologies, markets and applications”, and that these can be focused on “society” (including communities, families and individuals) or a particularly hard-hit industry.

“These could be proposals to help the distribution of goods, educate children remotely, keep families digitally connected and even new ideas to stream music and entertainment,” says Dr Ian Campbell, executive chair at Innovate UK.

Additional to those mentioned by Campbell, the organisation further specifies that fitting projects might also include technology that could help retailers respond to consumer demand and improve delivery services; platforms with which families can check on vulnerable elderly relatives; and tools that integrate “the classroom with the kitchen table”.

Designers tackling the crisis

Innovate UK is not the first organisation to issue a call for help relevant to designers amid the current crisis.

NHSX, the digital innovation arm of the UK’s health service, put out a call late last month to find innovators with tech-led solutions to inform its pandemic response. Meanwhile the United Nations and the World Health Organisation last week invited the world’s graphic designers to use their craft to help spread vital public health messages.

And elsewhere, often without being asked, other design-led organisations have been working on their own response to the coronavirus, such as the team behind the CURA hospital “pod” or those finding solutions to medical supply shortages.

“Fast-tracking” innovation

To ensure ideas are established and delivered in a timely manner with this competition, Innovate UK has specified those interested must be able to start projects no later than June 2020.

“By fast-tracking innovation, the UK will be better placed to maintain employment levels, a competitive position in global markets and make the UK more resilient to similar disruption [in the future],” says Innovate UK.

To find out more details about the brief and how to apply for funding, visit the competition website.

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