London announces winners of Covid-19 recovery innovation challenge

The Mayor’s Resilience Fund called for ideas to support businesses and communities emerge from the pandemic, and there are some standout winners

The winners of an innovation challenge set up to support London’s recovery from the Covid-19 crisis have been announced at a ceremony that convened city and startup leaders.

Set up in partnership with innovation foundation Nesta, the Mayor’s Resilience Fund is a £1m effort to help London’s businesses and community groups emerge stronger from the pandemic and ensure the capital is ready for future challenges.

At the ceremony on 13 July, experts such as Nicola Mathers, chief executive at Future of London, and Theo Blackwell, London’s chief digital officer, shared their views on London’s current standing and opportunities around future-proofing the capital. The sessions took place prior to the announcement of the winning ideas developed by innovators to tackle 10 major challenges facing the capital.

The 10 challenges were selected by London mayor Sadiq Khan following work alongside local authorities, public agencies, social enterprises and community groups across the capital. Following an initial delivery phase, which ran from May to July 2021, with 35 participating innovators, the winning teams will develop their ideas further between July and October 2021.

“Watching these incredible startups work so hard has been exciting and rewarding. I’m looking forward to seeing these brilliant ideas being developed further and implemented across London in the months ahead,” said Tris Dyson, managing director of Nesta Challenges.

The issue of bringing high streets back to life was addressed by Sqwyre from Whythawk, a commercial location database supporting research into business properties and contributing to reducing vacancy rates. The topic of affordable workspaces was addressed in a fit-out model that offers a cost-effective solution for newly built/shell and core spaces or empty premises, aiming to reduce property costs for the user, developed by Albeit Project.

“Watching these incredible startups work so hard has been exciting and rewarding. I’m looking forward to seeing these brilliant ideas being developed further and implemented across London in the months ahead”
Tris Dyson, Nesta Challenges

OpenMarkets.London by Tabled is also one of the selected ideas, proposing a way to make it easier to apply for a trading licence across London’s local authority markets. And the supply and demand of food to tackle food insecurity was addressed by Spaze Food Management Platform from Spaze, a cloud-based resource management platform that enables systemic coordination of local food stakeholders.

The needs of gig economy workers were considered in the development of Finmo, a platform that allows gig economy workers to track their income and expenses and file tax returns, while also helping them understand their take-home pay and how their net hourly wage compares with the living wage.

Modelling and assessing health impacts from air quality interventions was covered by Healthy Air Quality Impacts in Lambeth (HEAL), a system developed by BlockDox. Another challenge relating to renewable energy was addressed by Royal Docks Floating Solar by Renewable Connections Developments, which proposed a floating solar array in London’s Royal Docks that will provide clean, renewable energy directly to London’s City Airport and other organisations.

DynamicLink, a platform for on-demand optimisation of freight journeys for operators with predictive capabilities that aims to address the smart mobility challenge, was developed by Kale Collective. On bereavement services, the Loss in Translation service by Apart of Me is a peer-led grief activism project that aims to empower young people from minority ethnic backgrounds to transform their grief into compassion.

Another challenge posed to the innovators was Covid-safe travel, addressed in the Aubin Journey Planner by JNCTION. The system is a door-to-door journey planner and companion app which helps people travel confidently when using public transport during the pandemic.

Partners working with the Resilience Fund are Better Bankside with Kings College London, Ealing Council, Groundwork London, Lambeth Council, Hackney Wick Fish Island Creative Enterprise Zone, Thrive LDN, Hackney Council, the Royal Docks Team, and the Living Wage Foundation. The initiative is funded by the London Economic Action Partnership (LEAP).

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