New competition offers £40 million for innovations to transform older age


A landmark funding competition has been launched 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 £40 million to fund solutions that will help people to enjoy at least five additional healthy, independent years of life.

The competition, now open 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.

There is 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% 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 comments:

“I get involved with as much as I can in my community as staying active and stimulated is crucial to ageing healthily. 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. 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 time when it is needed.”

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

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “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 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:

  1. Discovery - Up to £100,000 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
  2. Implementation – A closed competition open to Stage 1 projects. Up to £6million will be available per application plus a minimum of 50:50 matched funding.

To apply for the Trailblazer competition, visit

To read more information, click here.