Product, Service & Design Innovation
These 6 Startups Just Won £180,000 for Driving Innovation in the Sharing Economy

Innovate UK’s IC tomorrow competition sought innovative ideas to grow trust in the sharing economy and support it in the fields of tourism, travel, home improvements, construction and data. Six winning startups were selected from over 200 entries – the most ever received in an IC tomorrow competition.

“This unprecedented popularity proves that momentum for the collaborative economy is still very much on the rise. This is no surprise considering 64 percent of organisations operating in the sharing economy were founded in or after 2010, suggesting that the space is still ripe for further development,” Innovate UK stated in the press release.

The sharing economy involves the use of Internet technologies to connect people and organisations so they can make better use of goods, skills, services, capital and spaces, allowing them to share access and reduce the need for ownership. The “peer-to-peer revolution” has infiltrated numerous industries from fashion to housing to cars, and has led to an explosion of “gig economy” workers.

The IC tomorrow competition outlined six challenges facing the sharing economy, and one winner was selected for each challenge. Each winner was awarded up to £30,000, and will get to develop their prototypes alongside leading industry partners including Airbnb, Crossrail, Kingfisher, NESTA, Sharing Economy UK, and the Peterborough City Council in partnership with Opportunity Peterborough and Cranfield University.

The challenge areas, winners and partners are:

  • Trust in the sharing economy – Partnered with Sharing Economy UK – KnowNow Information Ltd. is developing a new personal data consent service to help sharing economy services to improve trust for their customers. It will also enable their users to be able to better control what happens to their data and validate the identities of other consumers in the sharing economy.

  • Next-generation tourism and travel in the sharing economy – Partnered with Airbnb – Bubbl Ltd. has come up with a geolocation mobile app called AirBubbl to better connect users with local communities and improve the customer experience.

  • New sectors for the sharing economy – Partnered with NESTA – Digital Algorithms Ltd. has come up with a system to help to connect volunteers with local opportunities that suit their skill set, thus helping to improve public wellbeing.

  • Sharing innovation in home improvement – Partnered with B&Q and Castorama parent company Kingfisher – Makercase Ltd. is developing a platform that provides consumers with on-demand access to tools, equipment and educational content. The technology will help consumers to access the correct hardware and assist retailers in gaining insight into product usage and facilitating sales.

  • Sustainable construction – Partnered with major railway project Crossrail – Circology is working on a digital platform to help to reduce waste in the construction industry. The technology allows users to value materials in-situ prior to the end of a project to determine if they’re able to be reused.

  • Data analytics for sharing economy cities – Partnered with Peterborough City Council, Opportunity Peterborough and Cranfield University – Folk Labs is developing a tool that visualises urban systems by using crowd-sourced data to provide communities with a better understanding of how they can increase and build upon the sharing capabilities of cities.

“The advance of the sharing economy is beginning to affect many different sectors and industries and this Innovation Contest sought to build on the new opportunities and challenges that this has created,” said Matt Sanam, Innovate UK’s Lead Technologist, Digital Economy and Programme Manage for IC tomorrow.

“We had a record number of entries for this contest and the competition has been tough at every stage, but these six startups have proven themselves as companies to watch as they work to address these new challenges. We hope these collaborations between our partners and these exciting startups will open up many new opportunities and will help to advance the sharing economy in new and interesting ways.”

Product trials for this competition will launch in spring 2017.

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