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22 July 2008 PR 08/114

Innovation awards to boost British sport

UK Sport and Loughborough University Sports Technology Institute have today launched two competitions to challenge the nation’s entrepreneurs find the most innovative ideas in sport.

Competition winners will benefit from funding to pursue their project, together with access to an outstanding network of world-leading expertise and specialist research facilities, dedicated to developing cutting edge technologies in both elite performance and the sport and leisure industry.

Through its Ideas 4 Innovation programme, UK Sport’s Research and Innovation team is seeking pioneering new ideas designed to give our best athletes the competitive advantage they need to win medals on the world stage. Novel training and recovery strategies or aids, equipment or apparel will be considered for the Garage Innovators Award, a single grant of up to £25,000 to be used to further the idea, exploring its potential to benefit the British Olympic and Paralympic teams.

Loughborough University Sports Technology Institute is offering Innovation Awards of up to £10,000, supported by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation. Innovative sports clothing, footwear or equipment at any stage of development will be considered, provided it demonstrates strong commercial potential.

The Institute is one of a select few research organisations to be granted ‘Innovation Partner’ status by UK Sport in recognition of their working partnership in developing innovative technologies that could hold the key to world beating performances.

The partnership has already produced results, with three Beijing-bound Paralympic athletes benefiting from collaborative research to improve the design of individual frames used in archery and throwing events. The project has already demonstrated an average weight reduction of up to 50% for the frames as well as improved ergonomic design.

Another collaborative project has teamed leading specialist sports shoe manufacturer New Balance with Loughborough University experts to develop the first ever sprint spike that is biomechanically tuned to the individual athlete to optimise force production and therefore speed.

Award winners would have access to the expertise and facilities used in cutting edge projects such as these. At the launch of the awards held at the Institute, Olympic Gold medal winning cyclist, and Ideas 4 Innovation judging panel member, Jason Queally said:

“I have been directly involved with the research and development work that has gone on behind the scenes between British Cycling and UK Sport over the last four years to ensure the team remain a step ahead of the rest of the world technologically. As the world’s leading cycling nation, the GB team will hopefully reap the rewards of this work, as well as their own hard work and dedication, in Beijing.

“But the hard work on and off the track doesn’t stop there. We’ve got 2012 to look ahead to and we need some fresh ideas and approaches to make the team even better by then. This is where the British public can help by telling us their Ideas 4 Innovation – and not just for cycling – UK Sport work with all of our Olympic and Paralympic sports.

“Sometimes the best ideas come from outside the sporting world because, that way, moments of inspiration are not confined by knowledge of the ‘norms’ and what has gone before. If you’ve got wild ideas, creativity and a passion for sport we want to hear from you - this is a real opportunity for you to contribute to British sporting success.”


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Notes for editors:

  1. Both award schemes are open to UK-based lone inventors and companies of less than 250 people. The closing date for applications is 24 October 2008. Full details are available online:

    UK Sport’s Garage Innovators Award (elite performance): http://www.uksport.gov.uk/ideas4innovation
    Gatsby Innovation Awards (commercial potential):
  2. About Loughborough University Sports Technology Institute
    Loughborough University Sports Technology Research Group is one of the world’s leading research groups of its kind and the largest in the UK. It has established an international reputation for its work with global brands including adidas, Callaway Golf, Canterbury of New Zealand, Dunlop, Head, New Balance, Nike, Reebok, Slazenger, Spalding, Speedo and Umbro on the design, simulation, testing and manufacture of sporting goods. The Group’s track record of design-led innovation and development of novel concepts from initial stages through to commercialisation is worthy of particular note.

    In 2007 a £15M state-of-the-art Sports Technology Institute was created to house the Sports Technology Research Group. The East Midlands Development Agency (emda) awarded £5.4M towards the creation of the Institute. This funding is one of the largest capital investments made by emda and reflects the organisation’s shared priority with Loughborough University to transfer knowledge to the sporting goods industry and to support UK preparations for the 2012 Olympic Games.
  3. About UK Sport
    UK Sport is the Government agency responsible for investing in and supporting our Olympic and Paralympic sports and athletes. It currently invests around £100 million a year in the World Class Performance Programme, supporting over 1,400 athletes across 24 Olympic and 20 Paralympic sports. It underpins this investment through providing dedicated services to sports and their staff and athletes, such as Elite Coach, Sports Medicine and Sports Science, Talent ID, Performance Lifestyle and Research and Innovation. UK Sport also operates as the National Anti-Doping Organisation, and is the lead agency for international sporting issues.

    UK Sport’s Research and Innovation programme is led by Dr Scott Drawer and strategically invests £1.5millon per year in collaborative projects to enhance the performance of British Olympic and Paralympic athletes. In 2008, the Research and Innovation team announced Innovation Partnerships with the following organisations in recognition of their ability to provide innovative performance solutions for elite sport: BAE Systems (Podium Innovation Partner), epm: technology, Frazer-Nash Consultancy, Lough borough University Sports Technology Institute, University of Portsmouth, Sheffield Hallam University, TotalSim, Wolfson Unit.
  4. Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research, strong links with industry and unrivalled sporting achievement.

    It is a member of the esteemed 1994 Group – a set of internationally recognised, research intensive universities – and has a reputation for the relevance of its work. Its degree programmes are highly regarded by professional institutions and businesses, and its graduates are consistently targeted by the UK’s top recruiters.

    Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

    In the 2007 National Student Survey, the University was voted fourth in the UK, with 23 out of 29 of Loughborough’s subject areas being ranked in the top ten for overall satisfaction. Loughborough is also ranked in the top fifteen of UK universities in national league tables. It was named winner of the 2006 and 2007 Times Higher award for the UK’s Best Student Experience and winner of the 2007 award for Outstanding Support for Overseas Students. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes – an achievement bettered by no other university.

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