What sort of future do we want to see? What are the barriers to making it happen? How can these barriers be overcome?

challenge prizes graphic

These questions are central to our approach to future projects, and guide the development of all our prizes. We talk to partner organisations, bring experts together and we listen to the views of the community to formulate our ideas for potential prizes.

We are currently focussed on the ideas listed below and have produced different research documents that show our current thinking.

Energy EnvironmentGlobal Health

Closing the protein loop

Read our research report

Food waste in the UK amounts to 10 million tonnes per year.

We have become far better at avoiding waste going to landfill over the past 20 years – roughly half of both household and commercial waste in the UK is now recycled and only a quarter goes to landfill. But not all recycling is the same, and this is particularly true of waste food. Waste food can be composted, fermented or fed to animals – or we can find ways to eat it ourselves.

Our research focuses on the challenges and opportunities facing efforts to repurpose waste protein for human consumption. This is arguably the most difficult, but also the most valuable form of food recycling.

Global Health

Surgical Equity Prize

Read more

Until ​recently, ​surgery ​was ​not ​recognised as ​a ​significant ​contributor ​to ​the ​global disease ​burden ​and ​was ​not ​a ​top ​priority in ​the ​eyes ​of ​global ​public ​health agencies.

But ​recent ​estimates ​from The ​Lancet claim ​that ​five ​billion ​people ​lack ​access ​to safe ​and ​affordable ​surgical ​services.

We need to change this. We believe there is an urgent need to develop more adaptable low-cost surgical tools and better system design, support and services that fit into different environments. We also need to upskill personnel, improve hospital infrastructure and build more reliable distribution and supply systems for operating theatre provision.

For this reason, we are designing a Challenge Prize as part of a broader campaign to raise awareness, leverage knowledge and expertise, and harness the requisite technical and financial resources.

Economic growth


Read our research report

Remittances are the principal source of finance for many developing countries.

Total remittances in 2014 reached $583 billion, compared to $135.2 billion Official Development Assistance (ODA) that year. They represent money sent by migrants to support recipients in meeting basic needs. There is a good correlation between remittances and improved health, nutrition and education.

However, there are several barriers to developing countries making the most from remittances. Among these are transaction costs, lack of competition among money transfer operators and an increase in flow of remittances through informal channels. We want to increase the potential of remittances to achieve equality, financial inclusion and social development.

Energy Environment

Spacecraft design

Read our research report

Satellite technology is now lagging behind consumer electronics.

The space race helped develop many technologies we use today, such as digital imaging chips. But space hardware has not made the same progress as consumer technology, making access to space costlier than it needs to be.

We want to bring the radical innovations seen in consumer electronics into the commercial space sector.

Innovations in miniaturisation have great potential to cut costs, improve satellite design and support commercial space applications. The UK’s thriving space sector stands to benefit from these innovations, and society will benefit from cheaper and more ubiquitous use of satellite services. For that to happen, there need to be new incentives that embolden satellite designers to take risks and make changes.

Energy EnvironmentGlobal Health

Alternative feeds

Read our research report

Meeting the growing demand for protein means the way we farm animals has to change.

Despite falling birth rates, the world’s population continues to rise, and is projected to hit 10 billion in the second half of this century. Meanwhile, economic growth and rising living standards mean people expect a better diet than their forebears.

Protein, an essential component of a healthy diet, is difficult to produce. Our main food crops are relatively low in protein, and much of the world’s demand is met through animals, both farmed and wild. But farming of animals is inefficient, and animals compete with humans for much of their diet.

Solving the challenge of extra protein for human diets will therefore come in part from finding new and more sustainable ways to produce meat and fish.

Community and wellbeing

Intelligent homes

Read our research report

The global population is ageing, putting more pressure on care services.

This demographic shift is set to continue over the coming decades, with dramatic economic, political and social implications.

Smart home innovations are mainly being designed for fit, healthy people, with innovation focused on the minor inconveniences of the cash-rich, time-poor.

The developments in this area could have a greater social impact if they were focused on revolutionising elderly care.

We want to incentivise new technology to support an ageing population to have a happy and healthy lifestyle, to promote autonomy and choice while preventing isolation.

Energy Environment

Zero carbon flight

Read our research report

Fossil fuel aviation is not sustainable.

Aviation is one of the most difficult areas to address in terms of global emission targets.

In the long-term, aviation should become a zero-emission industry. Existing zero-emission demonstrators have no impact on the aviation industry, because there is currently a gap in technology maturation path between the demonstrator stage and
general aviation.

Our vision for flight will be to incentivise the development of zero- or reduced-emission flight in the near term, in an aircraft that can scale up and influence the whole aviation industry by 2025.


Economic growthCommunity and wellbeing

Connected Worlds

Read our research report

Modern communications technologies have transformed the way we live.

How can we ensure they deliver similar benefits to poor, marginalised communities in the developing world?

Access to the internet, in particular through smartphones, is now ubiquitous – even in the poorest countries, smartphones and internet cafés are now common.

But many of the most useful services – including e-commerce, sharing economy platforms and online access to public services – are tailored to the needs of rich countries.

In the developing world, they are limited or non-existent. Our vision is to bring tailored, relevant online services to these newly connected communities, so they benefit from the communications revolution.

Global HealthEnergy Environment

Food innovation

Read our research report

In the face of limited land and climate change, we must learn how to feed the world with less.

Over the past century the global population has experienced an exponential growth, almost doubling in size in the past fifty years.

The main challenge linked to this increase in numbers has been an increasing demand for food. New tools and technologies have been instrumental in increasing and accelerating food production.

There are currently a number of innovations that show potential for providing more food including new farming techniques, sustainable fertilisers, new crop varieties, meat replacements, novel foodstuffs, diagnostic tools for nutrition and storage or preservation techniques which reduce waste.

A food innovation prize could foster the development of sustainable and equitable technological innovations that significantly enhance our capacity to produce nutritious food.

Energy Environment

Quantum technology

Read our research report

Quantum information science and technology is a growing field.

In the past decades, significant advancements have taken place in quantum cryptography, with around 100 groups around the world working on technologies such as quantum key distribution. Other areas such as quantum communications and quantum computing are still at a more fundamental level of development.

The two main advantages often highlighted when discussing quantum technologies are significantly increased computing power and increased security.

The purpose of developing an inducement prize in this area would be to overcome significant technological barriers and accelerate change to bring new ideas to light. For example, in the area of quantum communications, the challenge could be that of developing technologies that can support the transmission of quantum information over long distances.

Economic growth energy and environment

Urban agriculture

Read our research report

The current food system is failing.

With mounting issues including that of worldwide hunger, food waste, and the globalised and environmentally degrading nature of mainstream food production, disruptive urban agriculture can offer a sustainable alternative.

Our goal is to disrupt the current food system and use innovation in urban agriculture in order to create a more sustainable, fair and environmentally friendly food system. Hunger should no longer be an issue, nor should be food overproduced or wasted.

We want to see a future in which some of the world’s most vulnerable communities have an improved quality of life and access to regular, nutritious and adequate food supplies.

Economic growthCommunity and wellbeing

Cash transfers

Read our challenges brief

Read our opportunities report

Direct cash transfers have a stronger impact on poverty reduction than in-kind and technical support.

Sending money directly to individuals has emerged as a new model of giving. Cash transfers ensure funds reach the recipients, while cutting corruption and improving transparency. They promote financial inclusion, beneficiaries’ ownership of development policies, and alignment between programmes and accountability.

However, cash transfers still only represent 6% of total humanitarian spending. We aim to leverage the transformative potential of cash transfers to support development. We believe that cash transfers can be a trustworthy and accountable way to offer autonomy to poor people, giving them a choice over their priorities and needs.

If you or your organisation is interested in any of these future prizes, get in touch.