Competition offers £40m for innovations to transform elderly care

Landmark funding will help develop products and services to enable people to enjoy at least five more healthy, independent years of life

A landmark funding competition has been launched today to boost innovations that will enable people to live better for longer.

The Trailblazer competition, led by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and funded by the Government’s Healthy Ageing Challenge Fund, is offering up to £40m to fund solutions that will help people to enjoy at least five additional healthy, independent years of life.

The competition, which opens today, will provide funding for ideas that fill gaps in the market with aspirational, affordable and easily-accessible products and services.

We want to encourage innovators from across the UK to be part of the movement to transform how we age. Our grants will provide them with the resources to make their ideas a reality

UKRI is calling on entries from businesses to public sector organisations and social enterprises that can develop and deliver such products and services at scale.

It comes as it is expected that a third of children born this year will live to see their 100th birthday.

And, by 2040 it is projected that around one in seven people in the UK will be over the age of 75, rising from one in 12 today.

Furthermore, despite the over-50s accounting for 76% of the UK’s financial wealth and nearly half of all consumer spending; the products and services created for this group are often not adequately designed for our longer lives and can lack appeal.

Retired primary school headteacher, Don Berry, 69, who is involved with the Old Moat Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC) in Manchester, said: “We are becoming more age friendly as a society, but there are many gaps where the needs of older people are overlooked.

Clothing retailers, for example, lose out on business from older customers as fitting rooms don’t provide adequate seating.

“And public transport is key for staying involved in the community, but many older people opt for a taxi over the bus, as there is a risk of falling over as the bus pulls away and taxi drivers are a source of social interaction.

“I would also really like to see innovative ideas in healthcare which would alleviate some pressure on GPs, allowing more time for face-to-face consultations when they are needed.”

UKRI’s Healthy Ageing Challenge director, George MacGinnis, adds: “Now is the time for the UK to see our ageing society as an opportunity rather than a problem.

We need new innovations to meet the needs of an ageing population and this Trailblazer programme will help our best minds take great ideas to the marketplace, developing ideas that will help people live better lives, for longer

“We need to improve the support available to help people to live healthier, more-independent lives.

“This would not only benefit society; it would also reap economic rewards as the market for products and services that are designed with older people in mind continues to grow.

“That is why we are launching the Trailblazer competition. We want to encourage innovators from across the UK to be part of the movement to transform how we age. Our grants will provide them with the resources to make their ideas a reality.”

The Trailblazer Scheme represents one of the largest innovation investments of its kind in the UK and is a major milestone for the government’s £98m Healthy Ageing Challenge Fund.

The fund feeds directly into the Industrial Strategy’s Ageing Society Grand Challenge and supports delivery of its mission for people to enjoy five more years of healthy, independent life by 2035, while narrowing the gap between the experience of the richest and poorest.

Science Minister, Chris Skidmore, said: “More than ten million people in the UK today can expect to see their 100th birthday, compared to the 15,000 centurions alive today.

“It is imperative that we have the products and services needed to allow people to grow old with dignity.

“We need new innovations to meet the needs of an ageing population and this Trailblazer programme will help our best minds take great ideas to the marketplace, developing ideas that will help people live better lives, for longer.”

“This competition is a tremendous opportunity for businesses and creative minds to put forward their proposals for the next generation of life-changing products

And Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, commented: “I am a passionate believer in the power of innovation – utilising technology to help people live longer, healthier, happier lives.

“This competition is a tremendous opportunity for businesses and creative minds to put forward their proposals for the next generation of life-changing products, supporting our Ageing Society Grand Challenge in the process and ultimately harnessing the power of technology to improve people’s lives.”

Applicants will need to demonstrate how their ideas will tackle one or more of the following challenges of older life:

  • Sustaining physical activity
  • Maintaining health at work
  • Design for age-friendly homes
  • Creating healthy, active places
  • Supporting social connections
  • Living well with cognitive impairment
  • Managing common complaints of ageing

The Trailblazer Scheme will roll out in two stages:

The first stage is ‘Discovery’ with up to £100,000 available to at least 15 trailblazers with big ideas for products and services to sustain a healthy, happy older life.

This investment will support the development of a business case and design.

This stage opens on 23 September and the deadline for applications is at midday on 27 November.

The second stage is ‘Implementation’. This is a closed competition open to Stage 1 projects. Up to £6m will be available per application, plus a minimum of 50:50 matched funding.

To apply, click here.