Vodafone backs social tech with £300K

Written by Julian Blake, Editor at DigitalAgenda

Mobile network giant Vodafone UK has unveiled a new £300,000 tech-for-good innovation award in a drive to scale business-backed social tech innovation in key areas of health, education, environmental protection and social mobility.

Untitled design (3)The Vodafone Techstarter UK tech awards programme has been created through a new partnership between the network’s Vodafone Foundation charity arm and Social Tech Trust.

The Techstarter programme has a total prize fund of £300,000 to help scale social tech innovation.

“Vodafone Techstarter aims to uncover and develop ideas that can harness the power of technology, connectivity and innovation to improve health, education, environmental protection or social mobility,” Social Tech Trust said.

Vodafone Techstarter has been developed in partnership with the Vodafone Foundation, Vodafone’s charitable arm, and Social Tech Trust, the UK’s leading dedicated supporter of socially motivated tech ventures.

As well as financial awards, winners will gain access to industry and technology expertise from both Vodafone and Social Tech Trust, enabling startups to take innovations from prototype to market readiness. “This will include coaching, commercial development support, mentorship, investment and partnership advice, with additional bespoke elements depending on their requirements,” STT explained.

The £300,000 is to be distributed as follows:

  • For-profit Vodafone Techstarter Award – four winners will each receive £35,000 and a 12-month programme of support and value-in-kind
  • Not-for-profit Vodafone Techstarter Award – four winners will each receive £35,000 and a 12-month programme of support and value-in-kind
  • Vodafone Techstarter champion’s award – two winners, voted by Vodafone employees, will each receive £10,000.

The Techstarter award is open to UK-based inventors, innovators, charities, social enterprises, businesses and entrepreneurs with prototype ideas. Applications must have a clearly defined social purpose. 

The Vodafone Foundation invests in the communities in which Vodafone operates. Its ‘Connecting for Good’ programme combines Vodafone’s charitable giving and technology “to make a difference in the world”.  

Vodafone UK enterprise director Anne Sheehan said the company was committed to supporting startups across the UK. “I’m particularly excited to be encouraging new innovations that will contribute positively to the world we live in,” she said. “The scaling of technology solutions can be a challenge for any startup, and particularly for socially motivated tech ventures.”

Social Tech Trust was formed as an independent trust earlier this year, emerging from the former Nominet Trust after its separation from parent Nominet. Since confirming independence STT has set up a new ‘tech to unite us’ programme to tackle inequality through innovation.

Welcoming the new partnership, trust chair Bill Liao said: “We believe that valuing the social purpose of tech from the outset, combined with cross-sector collaboration, is vital in achieving transformational social change at scale. We’re really excited to see the ventures that come forward.”

Applications for Techstarter are open until 23 October.


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