21 UK innovators among global winners in healthy ageing contest

Shot of a happy older couple enjoying a healthy lunch together outdoors.

An app which encourages exercise, faster access to orthotics and a toolkit for people with dementia are some of the innovations securing world-wide recognition.

3 winners

They are 3 of 21 British innovations named as winners this year in the US-run Healthy Ageing Catalyst Awards.


BraNeS will use ‘movement sonification’, the real-time production of sound through the user’s movement. It’s currently spreading within youth and music subcultures through new products aimed at primarily young audiences. This project will adapt that technology for older people to encourage physical activity and social interaction.

Custom designed orthotic

A Derby-based project will recruit elderly stroke patients with ankle mobility problems. Their ankle-foot section will be 3D scanned, and automated shape-capture process, currently only done by 3% of NHS Trusts.

The resulting custom designed orthotic will then be 3D printed, using a sustainable material made from castor oil. They should get their orthotic in fewer than 5 days rather than up to 12 weeks which is the current wait time.

My Day

My Day is a ‘phone-based or tablet-based toolkit which will provide information about dementia, practical strategies, and digital tools to help people manage their daily lives.

My Day is intended to help people learn about dementia and to share this with trusted family or friends. Collecting information over time can also help to spot early signs of change. This means more help can be put in place.

Cutting edge innovation

The awards harness the most innovative, cutting edge and blue-sky ideas of researchers, the businesses they work with, and others. This is to create practical, scalable products and services that support us as we age.

Funded by UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) healthy ageing challenge in the UK, winners are also part of the National Academy of Medicine healthy longevity global competition. UK winners are also eligible for the later stages of that, including a $5 million grand prize.

A full list of the global winners, including those in the UK, was announced in the US this week.

Encouraging entrepreneurs

UKRI healthy ageing challenge director, George MacGinnis, said:

Researchers and innovators, particularly those with an entrepreneurial spirit, are ideally placed to develop and deliver ideas to help all of us to stay active, productive and socially connected across the generations both now, and as we get older.

This year’s winners include imaginative approaches to both the physical and social aspects of ageing and address issues that affect wider society.

Further information

The Catalyst awards are providing 60 grants over 3 years for academics based at UK research organisations. This will explore innovative ideas with the potential to transform the physical, mental, or social wellbeing of people across the world as they age.

In addition to a grant of up to £62,500 per project, award holders will benefit from a structured, nine-month part-time programme of support. This will accelerate ideas and work with researchers to maximise the reach and impact of their work.

All ideas are expected to fit with the priority areas of the UKRI healthy ageing challenge. These include:

  • physical activity
  • maintaining health at work
  • age-friendly homes
  • supporting social connections
  • better nutrition
  • finance products for older people

The healthy ageing challenge is funded by UKRI and delivered by Innovate UK and the Economic and Social Research Council.

Top image:  Credit: Tassii, E+ via Getty Images

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