Press release

Entrepreneurs encouraged to tap into creative accessible technologies market

Government calls for more innovation in gadgets for disabled people and is offering £50,000 in brand-new prize, in a £400,000 competition.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

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International accessible technologies market worth $3 billion, and yet there’s a ‘serious gap in the British market’ say ministers.

British entrepreneurs are being challenged by the government to develop imaginative and creative technological adaptations to help Britain’s 12.2 million disabled people and their families lead more independent lives.

One in five people in the UK have a disability and disabled people and their households have a spending power of over £200 billion. Yet the development and manufacture of aids, adaptations and products for disabled people has not kept pace with the use of new technologies, like smartphones, GPS, plasma TVs, Kindles and the internet.

The government’s Accessible Technology Prize aims to inspire technological innovation to assist disabled people in fields as diverse as education, the home, leisure, transport and work. Ministers hope it will encourage more budding entrepreneurs to tap into a market predicted to be worth over £500 million in Britain – and $3 billion internationally.

The competition – which is the first of its kind and is run in conjunction with innovation charity Nesta – opens today to entrants. Twenty five semi-finalists will receive a £6,000 contract to take their ideas forward. That will be whittled down to 10 finalists, who will each be awarded another £10,000 to develop their ideas into a prototype. The winning inventor will be announced in 2016 – with a £50,000 contract to take the idea to market.

Mark Harper, Minister of State for Disabled People said:

Everyone should have access to all of life’s opportunities, whether they have a disability or not. There’s a serious gap in the market at the moment in Britain in this sector and we want more entrepreneurs to focus on creating devices which help disabled people lead more independent lives.

This is a vastly untapped multi-million pound market, which we want more business people to see the potential of. As part of our long-term economic plan, we hope the prize will spur more people on to enter the accessible technology industry and make a difference to the lives of millions of disabled people in Britain.

Severely injured by the 7/7 bombings, Dan Biddle went on to create a smartphone app to help disabled people find accessible pubs, restaurants and hotels in London.

Businessman and wheelchair user Dan Biddle said:

When I acquired a disability my life changed forever. But just because you’re disabled, it doesn’t mean you can’t do things. With a little help from inventors, disabled people’s lives can be transformed. I invented a smart phone app that helps people with mobility issues find a host of accessible pubs and restaurants in the capital. With a little ingenuity more people could be harnessing the purple pound to enhance our lives.

The prize looks for transformative innovation in products, technologies and systems that enable disabled people, their families, carers and communities’ equality in life’s opportunities. A particular focus will be on the use of new or emerging technologies. Design and manufacturing processes will be key features.

More information

The Prize has been developed on a partnership basis. DWP is funding £100,000 and the Cabinet Office is putting £50,000 forward through its Contestable Policy Fund. Innovate UK through the Department for Business Innovation and Skills are match-funding £150,000 with Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) funding. SBRI is a well-established process to connect public sector challenges with innovative ideas from innovative suppliers. A further £100,000 is being put forward by the charity Nesta.

Prize timetable

Date Details
16 Oct 2014 Official launch including an accessible IT platform and process for applications
16 Jan 2015 Deadline for entries, assessment of ideas, judging panel and selection of 25 semi-finalists award a £6,000 contract to take their idea forward
Feb to May 2015 Support for 25 semi-finalists to develop their ideas
Jun 2015 10 finalists selected and awarded contracts (of £10,000 each) to develop their ideas into a prototype
Jun to Nov 2015 Finalists prototype
Dec to Feb 2016 Impact testing
Mar 2016 Announcement event and award £50,000 contract to the winner to take the idea to market

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Published 27 October 2014