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Tom Watson Launches InnovationRCA Design Challenge Exploring The Future of Work

In partnership with philanthropist Tom Shutes and UnLtd, the foundation for social entrepreneurs, InnovationRCA has launched Our Place in the World, a challenge that will seek out and invest in the most interesting and innovative ideas and products in the field of social entrepreneurship. Students, graduates and start-ups across the UK and Europe are invited to respond to the challenge to design innovative sustainable solutions with social impact.

The theme for the inaugural year, The Future of Work, was chosen to coincide with a new independent commission on the future of work established by Tom Watson, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. Discussing this new challenge, Watson said: ‘I welcome this forward-looking programme that will encourage and support technological innovation in the UK to make work smarter not harder, spread benefits more widely and build a thriving, inclusive economy.’

Tom Watson gave an opening address at the launch of the challenge at the College last week. This was followed by a panel discussion chaired by Professor Jeremy Myerson, Helen Hamlyn Chair of Design, featuring alumna and production designer Eve Stewart, Will Ackerman, Jason Holt and CEO of UnLtd Mark Norbury. The panel discussion generated a lively debate and interesting questions from the audience, covering topics from artificial intelligence and robotics, to the importance of apprenticeships.

InnovationRCA – the College’s acclaimed business incubator that invests in graduate start-ups to transform design-led innovations into successful businesses – is running the pilot year of Our Place in the World. ‘InnovationRCA’s incubator and mentors have a track record of encouraging brilliant new thinking around the most pressing societal problems of our time, ideas we then champion and bring to life,’ explained InnovationRCA’s Director Dr Nadia Danhash. ‘Through this challenge we are looking for the next generation of social entrepreneurs who want to build sustainable ventures while tackling this theme.’

‘Britain is living through an unprecedented era of change. But it’s also a huge opportunity to shape the future’ said UnLtd's Mark Norbury. ‘We believe social entrepreneurs have a key role to play in creating that future, delivering innovative, long-lasting solutions to the problems we face as a nation. We’re looking for people with great ideas today to solve the challenges of tomorrow.’ 

Applications to the challenge are now open until January 2017, when a jury of representatives from all Our Place in the World partners will draw up a shortlist. Shortlisted candidates will have access to mentoring between January and June through the three partners and their networks, providing the opportunity to speak to a range of insightful and knowledgeable designers and social entrepreneurs as they develop their design solutions. All shortlisted projects will also be submitted to the Future of Work Commission. Two winners, whose work shows the keenest and most innovative responses to the Challenge, will be announced in June. They will each receive £15,000 seed funding, together with 12 months of incubator space, support and mentoring at InnovationRCA, in order to develop and grow their social impact start-ups. 

InnovationRCA is holding two workshops at the College – on 29 November and 7 December – to help potential candidates gain more insights into the theme The Future of Work.


Details about how to apply for Our Place in the World can be found here.