UKRI x Zinc Catalyst awards fund 18 researchers ready to improve health and wellbeing for those in later life


We are delighted to announce the latest award holders from the UKRI x Zinc Healthy Ageing Catalyst.

A cutting-edge wearable device to treat musculoskeletal disorders; a data intervention to help navigate health needs at work; and a wearable smart belt that helps motivate and guide exercise for people with lower back pain. 18 research-led projects have received UKRI x Zinc Catalyst awards to provide the funding and support they need to advance their innovations and transform the health and wellbeing of those in later life.

The UKRI Healthy Ageing Challenge, delivered by Innovate UK and ESRC, brings together world-leading UK researchers and businesses, to meet the major industrial and societal challenges of our time. UKRI has partnered with mission-driven venture builder Zinc to support another round of Catalyst Award winners to help their groundbreaking research reach its impact potential. This ambitious partnership aims to advance breakthrough new innovation led by researchers from universities across the UK.

The Catalyst Award offers up to £50,000 in grant funding from UKRI (with £12,500 from the supporting institution), alongside a dedicated, 9-month programme of support from Zinc, to translate their research into impactful and scalable products, services and interventions.  This fourth Catalyst cohort boasts a group of 18 entrepreneurial researchers, each poised to transform innovative ideas into real world solutions to the unique challenges faced by the ageing population. You can see a list of all 18 award holders here. These include:

START with STRENGTH: Physical inactivity costs the UK £7 billion each year and is responsible for 1 in every 6 deaths. START with STRENGTH’s mission is to connect older adults with the tailored exercise programs that are proven to lower the risk of disability and disease. Our platform will be an easy-to-use tool for doctors and exercise providers to support exercise awareness, knowledge, referral, and support while its use will lead to a happier, healthier, and more active population.

Talk-More: The Talk-More device is a pedometer for talking. This will act as a means of monitoring talking time to motivate people to increase their talking time to improve their rehabilitation. The aim is for the device to be used by clinical speech and language therapists, researchers and stroke survivors and their families.

BOLD (Bringing out Leaders in Dementia)  Dementia can significantly impact the lives of people who have a diagnosis, including stigma, social isolation and a lack of meaningful connection to their community. BOLD is an innovative Social Leadership project that has provided opportunities for people living with dementia to take the lead in creating positive social change in their communities.

aiKNIT: The team at aiKNIT are inventing cutting edge material technology, to design programmable wearable devices that can change their material characteristics such as stiffness and elasticity, to support patients’ recovery from musculoskeletal disorders. The programmable material characteristics will fit the patient’s anatomical and physiological needs in a highly personalised fashion to facilitate faster and more effective healing.

Caring for Carers: The Caring for Carers project brings together research around health support for older workers with health data collection and modelling technology to develop an innovative intervention which will help individuals better understand the ways in which their health, work and wider lives interact, and will build on this understanding to offer a tool to help them more effectively navigate their health needs at work.

Playback: Lower back pain (LBP) is a leading cause of chronic disability and pain affecting 1 in 3 people, and is the most expensive medical condition, costing over £10bn in UK and over £115bn in USA per annum. The Playback team have created a wearable smart belt that helps motivate and guide exercise for people with lower back pain through detecting core activity.

Dr Natalie Pankova, Managing Director of Deeptech at Zinc, said:

“We are proud to continue our thriving partnership with UKRI to support researchers to advance the impact of their healthy ageing innovations. These 18 projects have potential to transform the lives of those impacted by, amongst other challenges, experience of dementia, osteoarthritis, back pain, mental health and isolation, and poor nutrition. UKRI’s ongoing support allows us to back researchers across multiple disciplines, backgrounds and research centres, providing them with the rigorous venture building support, expertise and networks they need to unlock the potential of their innovation for transformative impact.”

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