Skip to content

Innovation open call

We're looking for innovative solutions to support people most affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Challenges to solve

Please note: this open call has now closed to submissions.

Many people are facing significant, disproportionate barriers to being active during the coronavirus outbreak.

This open call is aiming to support innovative solutions that respond to these challenges and support those most affected so they can be active at this time.

We’re looking for solutions from individuals and organisations specifically developed to support women, people on low incomes, people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, disabled people or people living with long-term health conditions.

These solutions should address at least one of the challenges below, as they’re the most likely to be affecting our target groups:

  • Changes in circumstances: when faced with change due to financial pressures or increased caring responsibilities, certain groups may no longer feel able to invest time and/or money, or may lack the headspace needed to think about, plan, or invest the effort it takes to be active.
  • Mental health: certain groups of people are more likely to be experiencing new or worsening feelings of depression, stress, loneliness or anxiety, reducing their likelihood to be physically active.
  • Digital exclusion: faced with a continued period of enforced social distancing or isolation, people who are unable to, or who do not have access to digital channels, may not have the opportunity to be physically active.

This open call is designed to be flexible, so we’ll respond to what we’re hearing and the changing situation. As a result the open call may be updated – please check this page for the latest information.

A painted sign on the ground instructing people to keep two metres apart.

What is the open call and what are we trying to achieve?

Our research shows there are major inequalities within society, with too many of us not able to access activity in the same way and missing out on the health benefits.

These inequalities aren’t new, but they are being exacerbated by the pandemic, which is why we want to act now to ensure they don’t get worse.  

We believe innovation can play a key role in helping people overcome these challenges so they can lead more active lives, and in turn help tackle the inequalities that exist within society. 

Innovation doesn’t have to be complicated for users – brilliant ideas can have a big impact on people’s habits. For example, Google’s feature allowing users to find wheelchair accessible places with just one click.

Innovation doesn’t have to be about technology, either – some of the best ideas are local, simple and start with people at the heart. For example, London’s Library of Things, who are on a mission to make borrowing things better than buying them, thanks to a network of local volunteers.

Our work to support innovation is beginning with this open call for solutions that remove barriers for the communities that are currently least well-served.

We believe now is the time to act, innovate and do things differently to affect positive change and address inequalities.

The support we'll give you

We'll support successful submissions to make a positive difference to the challenges we've outlined within the next six months.

This support could include:

  • Access to our connections
  • Advice from experts in the sport and physical activity sector
  • Access to industry-leading research and insight into activity trends and motivations
  • A possible award of up to £50,000, from a potential £1 million pot of National Lottery funding.

Key things to know

  • We want to help these audiences quickly, so are looking for products or solutions that are already worked up and ready to deliver a positive impact within the next six months
  • Your solution doesn't have to directly deliver physical activity - we're very interested in solutions focused on community infrastructure or that might encourage greater activity through changes to the physical environment
  • We’re particularly interested in supporting individuals and organisations that are new to us, that may never have heard of us and may be in other industries – we know there’s a wealth of talent out there with vital contributions to make
  • If you're currently delivering a project funded by us and think you can help this open call, please speak to your Sport England contact in the first instance
  • The open call was open for weeks and closed on Wednesday 1 July at noon.

Research driving this call

Our three challenges – change in circumstances, mental health and digital exclusion – have been selected after our research suggested they are growing problems due to the impact of coronavirus.

Here we want to give you some more information about each issue, and some of the research showing how coronavirus is impacting the groups of people we’re trying to help.

  • Changing circumstances

    Some groups of people are more likely to have faced changes due to reduced income, unemployment or additional responsibilities – such as caring or home schooling.

    • Lower socio-economic groups: those from lower socio-economic groups are seven times more likely than high earners to work in a sector that has shut down because of coronavirus.
    • Women: on average, women are taking on more hours of childcare than men, and prior to coronavirus 17% of women worked in a sector that has since shut down, compared to 13% of men.
    • BAME: as a result of coronavirus, 46% of people from a BAME background reported their household income had reduced, compared to 28% of white British households.
    • Younger people: nearly a third of workers under the age of 25 work in an industry that has shut down, compared to one in eight people aged 25+.

    We've also put together an interactive guidance document containing more information and research that could help inform your application.

    Read less
  • Mental health

    Certain groups of people are more likely to be experiencing new or worsening feelings of depression, stress, loneliness or anxiety.

    • Lower socio-economic groups: research has shown continually higher levels of depression, anxiety, stress and loneliness among households with an income of less than £30,000.
    • Women: recent data suggests women are more likely than men to be worried about the effect of coronavirus on their lives and are more likely to agree their wellbeing is affected.
    • Disabled or long-term health condition: from evaluation of the We Are Undefeatable campaign, we know that worries about coronavirus are preventing physical activity among this group.
    • Younger people: figures show continually higher levels of depression, anxiety, stress and loneliness among those aged 18-29.
    • Older people: Since the start of the pandemic, there’s been a 31% increase in demand for The Silver Lines – the helpline for older people.

    We've also put together an interactive guidance document containing more information and research that could help inform your application.

    Read less
  • Digital exclusion

    Six million people in the UK (13%) are digitally excluded.

    • Lower socio-economic groups: just 51% of households earning £6,000-£10,000 had home internet access, compared with 99% of households with an income of more than £40,000.
    • Disabled or long-term health condition: in 2019, 78% of disabled adults in the UK were recent internet users, compared to 95% of non-disabled adults.
    • Older people: in December 2019, only around 5% of people aged 55+ had done at-home fitness with virtual instruction, compared to around 43% of 16-34-year-olds.

    We've also put together an interactive guidance document containing more information and research that could help inform your application.

    Read less

How to be successful

To help you succeed in obtaining support from us, these are the sorts of things we’re looking for. You don’t need to have done them all, but if you’ve done one or more you might have the sort of solution we’re looking for.

  • You’ll have addressed one of our three challenges stated above, rather than thinking broadly about promoting sport and physical activity. 
  • You’ll be disrupting the current way of doing things.  
  • You’ll have put people's needs at the heart of your innovation – you might’ve consulted with your communities to find out about the challenges to being active they face, and then designed your product with specific solutions in mind. 
  • You won’t have just thought digital or about apps. Many of our audiences either aren't connected to digital or don't like to use it to receive information, so consider how else to engage them. 
  • Innovation comes in all shapes and sizes. You might have a whole new product, a new way of delivering an existing product or a tiny change that has a big effect.

Further research

We're put together an interactive document to give you more detail about the open call and further research that could help inform your submission.

See the research

Sign up to our newsletter

You can find out exactly how we'll look after your personal data, but rest assured we’ll only use it to make sure you receive our newsletter, to understand how you interact with our newsletter, and to provide administrative information about our newsletter.