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

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

The competition, which opens today for applications, will provide funding for ideas that fill gaps in the market with aspirational, affordable and easily accessible products and services. UKRI is calling on entries from across the board, from businesses to public sector organisations to social enterprises that can develop and deliver such products and services at scale.

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The competition has come about because of a growing need to create innovative solutions for the UK’s ageing population. It is expected that a third of children born this year will live to see their 100th birthday. 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 percent 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 longer lives and can lack appeal, says UKRI.

Dr Anna Dixon, Chief Executive of the Centre for Ageing Better and a member of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund Programme Board, commented: “The Trailblazer Competition is an exciting opportunity for businesses to deliver products and services which over-50s will actually want to use and buy.

“Many developers, designers and marketeers treat everyone aged 50+ the same, and there’s a sorry selection of products and services on offer as a result.

“Over-50s account for nearly half of all consumer spending. With smart thinking and creativity, businesses can make the most of the growing over-50s market and unlock substantial opportunities to grow the UK economy.

“From innovative solutions to helping maintain health at work to inclusive products supporting people to live independently at home for longer, developing and bringing to market products that meet the diverse needs and wants of people over the age of 50 is a win-win.”

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 £98 million Healthy Ageing Challenge Fund.

The Healthy Ageing Challenge 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.

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.”

Applicants will 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:

Discovery – Up to £100K will be 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 2019, and the deadline for applications is at midday on 27 November 2019

Implementation – A closed competition open to Stage 1 projects. Up to £6 million will be available per application plus a minimum of 50:50 matched funding.

To apply for the Trailblazer competition, click here 

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