Nesta has revealed the 14 semi-finalists for its £3 million Rapid Recovery Challenge.
The challenge aims to provide financial backing for solutions which will help improve access to jobs and financial support for those impacted by Covid-19.
Semi-finalists were chosen because they offered ways to support vulnerable groups across the UK accessing employment. These range from tools that help people identify and develop transferable skills to find new work, to digital and personalised support to navigate benefits, bills, and personal finances.
Each team will receive £125,000 along with additional training and support to develop and grow their solutions.
In May 2020, six finalists will also be selected and receive an additional £150,000. The competition will ultimately crown two final winners in September 2020, each of whom will secure £200,000.
Nesta Challenges Managing Director Tris Dyson said: “As we continue to feel the economic impact of the pandemic, people up and down the country are facing severe threats to their job security and household finances. The Rapid Recovery Challenge’s goal is to ensure that millions more do not find themselves out of work, out of pocket and out of prospects.
“There are a range of ideas out there that could make a real difference to those whose jobs and money have been impacted by the current crisis but organisations need to move at pace to get these tools into people’s hands during their moment of need.”
Chosen from a pool of 148 entries, the 14 Rapid Recovery Challenge semi-finalists’ solutions have already been tested with at least 1,000 users. Nesta’s goal is to grow and scale these to reach one million people by 2023.
The semi-finalists are divided into two groups – seven use innovative techniques, such as algorithms and data analysis, to help people to find new jobs. The other seven are focused on helping people cope with the financial consequences of the pandemic.
Two of the semi-finalists are based in Edinburgh – Money Dashboard and Udrafter.
Money Dashboard offers a ‘cash survival tool’ called Spending Plan to vulnerable people. The tool helps people to spend less and save more by nudging them towards better money management. The tool automatically builds a personal cash flow taking into account any necessary bill payments before prompting the user to budget effectively.
Udrafter provides an online platform where businesses can access student and graduate talent on-demand and students are paid to complete degree relevant micro-internships which provide them with crucial work experience.
The Rapid Recovery Challenge’s partners include the Department for Work and Pensions, the Money and Pensions Service, which provided funds to raise the number of semi-finalists from 12 to 14, along with JPMorgan Chase.
Money and Pensions Service Strategy and Insights Director Sarah Porretta said: “We’re looking forward to seeing how these initiatives, including the winners from the financial recovery strand we are supporting, will help meet the financial wellbeing needs of those hardest hit by the pandemic, especially young people, women, BAME communities and workers on lower or more uncertain incomes
“Ultimately, these pioneering ideas will contribute towards the ambitious goals we have set for our UK Strategy for Financial Wellbeing through engaging children and young people in financial education, building savings habits and considering alternatives to using credit for everyday expenses.”
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Nesta has found that 22% of Scottish residents said they were being forced to switch to an alternative sector because of declining job opportunities in their current one.
A total of 51% said they would be starting at the bottom if they changed careers and 37% say their income would likely be impacted by this move.
With 28% of people in Scotland saying their finances are worse due to the most recent Covid-19 restrictions, 30% said the festive period is putting an even greater strain on their finances. 15% said they cannot pay their bills, let alone pay for Christmas.
The 14 semi-finalists will be publicly announced at a virtual event on Thursday, 10 December at 3pm.