Challenge North East

Welcome to Challenge North East – problem solving through open innovation

To support the North East in making our businesses and communities more resilient, the North East Local Enterprise Partnership has launched Challenge North East – an open innovation programme to help solve some of our region’s most pressing practical problems when faced with COVID-19

The purpose of the programme is to identify areas of shared concern in the NorthEast, to invite solutions from the region’s innovators and to fund the development of these solutions.

Challenge North East aims to develop solutions that will benefit multiple organisations and communities across the region.

The story so far

Sarah Cox Gives an update on the response from North East businesses


Challenge North East is currently closed for submissions. Details of any new challenges will be announced soon.


Ground-breaking solutions to the COVID-19 crisis will become reality thanks to the Challenge North East open innovation programme. Challenge North East called on North East SMEs to put forward ideas that could help society recover from the impact of COVID-19. Launched last year by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), the challenge attracted entries from over 60 SMEs.

Challenge One

Together Again:
Delivering Safe and Engaging In-person Events

Challenge Two

Safe again:
Adapting home-based services

What is Open Innovation?

Alan Welby, Innovation Director at the North East LEP shares his thoughts


Please email this completed form to [email protected] by Noon on 15th January to be considered for the prototype development funding of up to £5,000. Further details are available via the website or you can request a brief 1-to-1 call to clarify any question about your application by emailing [email protected].

Download this expression of interest form

The Solution Development Co-design programme runs from January to March 2021. Through the co-design workshop process you will work with organisations with large teams, customer bases and audiences with whom you can test your solution so that you can prove that your solution works and demonstrate its impact.

You will receive 50% of your development funding up-front (January 2021)and the remaining 50%, on condition that your team successfully develops a prototype of your solution and presents it at a pitch event in March 2021.

Following this pitch, you will be able to apply for an Impact Grant of up to £40k to scale your solution. The award will be based on the strength of your pitch, the demonstrated impact of your solution following user testing and completion of a grant application.

Any business or organisation that meets the eligibility criteria of being a small or medium enterprise of less than 250 employees whose principal place of business, operations, people or trading within the North East Local Enterprise Partnership region; and can demonstrate that they are not a research organisation, nor undertaking in difficulty.

We welcome expressions of interest from individual business entities, or from consortia (which must be represented by one lead contracting organisation in the bid). All organisations must fit within the State Aid provisions and be able to demonstrate, if required, participation in this programme will mean that they do not exceed the de minimis funding threshold of €200,000 over the past three years. The Challenge Team can advise during the EOI process.

As this is an Open Innovation programme, we are keen to involve a wide range of organisations and our region’s best minds in developing effective solutions. If your organisation does not meet these criteria, please get in touch and we can discuss how you can be involved. You may be able to submit a solution to develop via the challenge process but you may not be eligible for development funding.

Email [email protected] for further information.

This programme has received funding from the government’s Local Growth Fund. The Local Growth Fund is supporting capital investments to promote innovation, economic and skills infrastructure and sustainable transport as part of the North East Growth Deal.

ERDF ISN North East Sunderland Software City Digital Catapult

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