Innovate UK funding
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Innovate UK has launched a fund worth £14.4 million to support initiatives that encourage healthy ageing through service design.

The Designed for Ageing funding competition is part of a wider push by Innovate UK parent organisation UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), called the Healthy Ageing Challenge. The challenge has been developed to help businesses and social enterprises to create “products and services to help people as they age”, according to UKRI.

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“Think beyond comfortable shoes and stairlifts”

How design can help people age more comfortably is a perennial topic of the industry, and one that Design Week has covered before.

“Despite more of us living for longer and wanting to choose how to live in later life, the market for products and services which genuinely meet the needs of older people is fairly underdeveloped,” says UKRI design innovation lead Julia Glenn.

“Designing for ageing needs to think beyond comfortable shoes and stairlifts,” she adds.

“Game-changing service-led innovations”

Successful applicants to the fund can bid for a share of up to £2 million to support their idea. The lowest funding amount is £500,000.

Briefing documents for the fund say the ultimate aim is to deliver a suite of “game-changing service-led innovations”, which address the current under-provision of products and services for older people.

Those looking to apply will need to have a business-led idea that is near-to-market and has the potential to scale, according to the competition description.

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“Good, people-centred design”

Successful projects will need to have been co-designed with the people who are going to use them, Innovate UK says, while “good, people-centred design” should be at the centre.

To enforce this, all projects will be subject to a “design stage gate review” at the six-month point. Projects must pass this to continue to receive funding. “We need to address the proper design of flexible life choices for older people, of financial services beyond pensions and see that ageing is a continuum, not a boundary line,” explains Glenn.

Another requirement is for projects to conduct industrial research to develop “new and applied knowledge”. This research will ultimately positively market readiness, the brief says.

Potential themes

A series of themes have been highlighted as targets for prospective projects. These include initiatives that enable self-care and new models of care for independent living; and those that encourage the sustaining of physical activity for people aged 50 and above.

Other targets could include projects that improve mental health, or those that address the “common complaints” of ageing, like incontinence, pain, mobility, or a loss of hearing or eyesight.

By Molly Long

Source: Design Week

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