Innovate UK, the Government’s innovation agency, has announced a competition for UK businesses proposing new ideas to mitigate the challenges to society brought about by the Coronavirus outbreak.
Successful businesses can secure up to £50,000 as an upfront grant payment to cover the full costs of a project lasting up to 6 months.
As a result of the competition, Innovate UK is hoping to invest up to £20 million into the entries of successful business projects deemed both innovative and ambitious.
The requirement to stay at home and to social distance or self-isolate presents new threats to a wide range of businesses and services, from delivery businesses to food manufacturers, entertainment, financial services, healthcare, hospitality, retail, transport and community support.
Business innovation can play a significant role in developing ways to ease the disruption from COVID-19 and any future global disruption.
Innovation ideas submitted by businesses should aim to help key industries and services disrupted by the pandemic and its aftermath.
These could include innovative solutions to needs as varied as new platforms and software for music artists to stream live performances, to technology allowing retailers to respond better to spikes in customer demand.
Other potential areas for innovation include new education tools that allow teachers to remotely set tasks that keep the whole class together, and new ways for families to connect with and remotely monitor their elderly or vulnerable relatives and ensure they are receiving what they need.
Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “The response of researchers and businesses to the coronavirus outbreak have been remarkable.
“This new investment will support the development of technologies that can help industries, communities and individuals adapt to new ways of working when situations like this, and other incidents, arise.”
Dr Ian Campbell Interim Executive Chair, Innovate UK, said: “The Covid-19 situation is not just a health emergency, but also one that affects the economy and society. With that in mind, Innovate UK has launched this rapid response competition today seeking smart ideas from innovators.
“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. The UK needs a great national effort and Innovate UK is helping by unleashing the power of innovation for people and businesses in need.”
The competition is currently open and closes at midday on Friday 17 April 2020. Projects deemed to have strong potential could attract follow-on funding.