Challenge 1: Together Again: Delivering safe and engaging in-person events

This Challenge is now closed

Being together again is a universal need across our region’s business sectors and communities. The joy of shared experiences in the physical presence of others is priceless. Whether gathering for entertainment, performance art, doing business, travel, sport or staying healthy, COVID-19 has severely disrupted the businesses and parts of our society where we gather en-masse.

This open innovation challenge will mobilise collective creativity, ingenuity, expertise and empathy to find solutions that bring freedom back to our region once more.

To support our region towards a safe and sustainable reopening, Challenge North East is launching an open innovation programme to tackle the impact of Covid-19 with the following Challenge:

Do you have an idea that can help develop viable models for events that are safe and engaging for the public?

Ideas could address:

  • How might we deliver hybrid events that provide a safe experience for in-person attendees and an engaging experience for those watching/participating at home?
  • How might we deliver events across multiple venues to allow smaller crowds to gather safely indoors and outdoors, while still experiencing the excitement of in-person events?
  • How might we encourage confidence in our indoor and outdoor public spaces, so audiences feel safe to return when allowed to do so?

We are looking for a wide range of innovative solutions. These could include, but are not limited to:

  • New services, including creative direction of events;
  • Digital solutions;
  • Solutions for rapid testing for COVID-19, and other COVID-19-specific safety measures;
  • Solutions to make public spaces safer, e.g. changes to the built environment of events venues
  • Solutions to manage the flow of the public
  • Solutions to re-build public confidence in the safety of events.

Hear from venues facing this challenge and learn more about how you can help

What support is available?

As a solution developer you will have the opportunity to receive: development funding (up to £5k) to rapidly prototype your solution access to two co-design workshops in January and February 2021 access to organisations that are able test your solution routes to adoption if your solution is proven to work signposting to additional support available and promotion of your solution’s impact the opportunity to pitch your solution at the end of March and be in the running to win a grant of up to £40k to scale the most impactful solution.

Do you think you can be part of the solution?

If you have a solution, or could help devise a new one, and would like to be part of this programme, please download this Expression of Interest form. 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].

Ready to get involved?

If you think you have a solution and want to get involved, complete this short form and we will be in touch

Need more information?

As a Solution Developer you will work alongside Challenge Supporters whose organisations and sectors have been adversely hit by COVID-19 restrictions. You will attend two, 2-hour co-design workshops between January and March 2021, where you will work alongside key regional organisations, their team members and customers who are best placed to explain the context of the problem their industry is facing.

Running throughout the three-month programme, you will have access to tailored business support via mentoring in solution design and guidance on topics including: Commercialisation and De-Risking Routes to Market; Building Adaptable and Resilient Businesses; IP and Finance; HR & Legal.

By participating in the co-design programme, you will have the opportunity to develop and test prototype solution ideas with Challenge Supporters, their teams or customer user groups. We encourage diversity of technical expertise as the most successful solutions might combine digital and physical product design, behavioural psychology, research, data analytics, built environment, transport or communications components.

If accepted onto this hugely significant programme, you will be eligible to receive grant funding of up to £5,000 to pay for the development of your solution prototype(s) proposal during the co-design programme.

At the end of the Co-Design phase of the programme, if your solution has strong potential for further development and wider adoption, your team could be awarded a further Delivery Grant of between £10,000 and £40,000 to seed further development and implementation.


Criteria Weighting
A - Clear and compelling solution outline that offers an innovative solution(s) that is new to the market 20%
B - Measurable outcomes in scope with challenge 20%
C - Credible team specialisms / experience 25%
D - Valid prototyping & testing plan 15%
E - ROI v funding applied for 10%
F - Risk management 10%

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.

Intellectual Property will reside with the organisation or the consortium developing the solution; consortia should confirm their Intellectual Property stance between the partner organisations before applying.

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.

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