Economic and Social Research Council
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Celebrating the legacy of the UKRI Healthy Ageing Challenge

​Recently (8 May), leaders from across the healthy ageing ecosystem met at the House of Lords to celebrate the successes of the UKRI Healthy Ageing Challenge.

The Healthy Ageing Challenge team at the House of Lords.

The Healthy Ageing Challenge team at the House of Lords. Credit: Innovate UK and ESRC

Unveiling success

The event marked the conclusion of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Healthy Ageing Challenge, delivered by Innovate UK and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). It provided an opportunity to reflect on the achievements from the past five years, including:

  • £98 million Challenge Fund investment
  • £63 million co-investment from industry
  • £19.8 million follow-on private investment
  • 242 projects funded including small and medium-sized enterprises and social ventures

The challenge has been dedicated to adding life to years through carefully designed funding programmes and focused support for projects.

Strategic collaborations with private investors and charities have been pivotal, fostering co-investment for innovative solutions.

The challenge’s catalyst programme merged research with business, funding entrepreneurial researchers to expedite experimental translation. This has provided avenues for the UK’s creative talents across arts, humanities, and social sciences to contribute to the challenge.

An inclusive approach

Through the integration of diverse perspectives, including those of individuals with lived experience from across the UK, the challenge has fostered an inclusive portfolio, addressing inequalities. This inclusive approach, coupled with a focus on inclusive design, has enhanced the appeal of innovation projects and led to further investment opportunities.

Additionally, support for social venture innovation projects underscores the challenge’s commitment to driving social impact alongside economic growth.

The challenge focused on near-to-market innovations with advanced technology and sustainable business models to pave the way for scalable, widespread adoption.

What’s next?

The work of the challenge has played a pivotal role in energising the emerging healthy ageing sector, spanning multiple industries, and igniting a movement essential for transforming all aspects of society, including how we live, work, and interact with one another.

Its impact is in the communities reached by the innovators, the businesses influenced, and the research that continues to provide invaluable insights guiding our path forward.

The mission-led approach has proven effective, facilitating collaboration between innovators and academics across various disciplines. This approach has also created innovative pathways to support entrepreneurial researchers in translating their ideas into tangible societal benefits.

Opportunities continue to expand

The objectives of the challenge remain as relevant as ever. As our society continues to age, the opportunities for innovation continue to expand.

While much progress has been made, many projects are still in the process of scaling up to realise their full potential. These will benefit from ongoing support from investors who recognise their value, and from customers in both the private and public sectors who appreciate the transformative power of innovation.

Adding life to years

George MacGinnis, UKRI Healthy Ageing Challenge Director, recently said:

The objectives of the Healthy Ageing Challenge remain as pertinent today as they were at the start. With that in mind, we were particularly delighted with the announcement that Innovate UK will continue the work through the establishment of a new Healthy Lives team.

They will work alongside colleagues in ESRC and the other research councils to further the work aligned to UKRI’s strategic priority for Health, Ageing and Wellbeing.


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