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Super-accelerator for fitness startups

London Sport, the Open Data Institute and ukactive are coming together in an effort to boost startup innovation in the UK fitness space – and reverse a £20bn health crisis causing 37,000 deaths each year. Julian Blake reports.

physical activityStartups working to help people get more active are to be boosted by the creation of a new super-accelerator bringing together the three main UK accelerators for tech ventures in the physical fitness space.

The collaboration brings together the work of London Sport’s Sport Tech Hub, the Open Data Institute’s OpenActive Accelerator and ukactive’s ActiveLab, to create what the agencies say is “an integrated pathway of progression for startups at every phase of development – from early-stage concept through to scale-up and expansion”.

A lack of adequate physical activity is now one of Britain’s biggest public health challenges, say the three, costing £20bn each year and causing 37,000 deaths.

“Together we are proactively progressing a more active future where startups – the innovators of tomorrow – have a clear trajectory towards physical activity innovation,” the three agencies say.

“We’re progressing in unison three distinct and complementary digital innovation programmes,” they add, “to create a startup superhighway for physical activity innovators.”

Developments in data, social media, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and wearable technology are “having a huge impact” on the physical activity landscape, say the three.

“Digital products and services are moving into every part of people’s lives but we still have a large challenge ahead to ensure the benefits of widespread digital innovation lead to increased physical activity.”

The collaboration seeks to break the “organisational silos led by one-track-minded objectives” seen in other sectors.

“We believe more can be achieved when we enrich innovation together as a sector and invite others to consider how their innovation priorities can contribute to sector transformation.”

“The startups we support will develop solutions beyond just apps,” say the three. They will “harness technological innovation in its broadest sense”, applying the latest technology to reshape how people become and stay active.

“For example, we hope to see data used to better integrate physical activities into local services, create more immersive outdoor fitness experiences using augmented reality, or wearable technology tools that monitor physical health and support GPs with earlier patient intervention.”

“Our joint vision aims to prioritise the creation of the most promising solutions to evolve how people get and stay active, working beyond the established ‘scale-up or die quickly’ approach.”

Dave Newton, director of mass markets at Sport England, said: “The creation of this start-up superhighway for physical activity innovators is a strong step in the right direction, and is an exciting time for the sector as the collaborative use of data, both shared and open, becomes even more essential to providing the consumer with easy, flexible access to engage with sport and activity.”

ukactive chief executive Steven Ward said: “We want this joint vision to become the go-to launchpad for innovative and scalable physical activity businesses, so I’m hugely excited by the dynamic group of organisations that we’ll be working with to offer an end-to-end platform for tech startups.”

About the startup programmes

London Sport’s Sport Tech Hub incubator provides an entry point, nurturing the brightest early-stage startups focused on raising levels of participation in sport, with a programme of support delivered by industry experts. The inaugural programme kicked off in October 2017 and runs for six months, with applications for a second cohort opening to new startups in mid-2018.

The Open Data Institute’s OpenActive Accelerator supports startups using open data to develop and validate ready-to-market digital products and services that make it easier for people to be regularly active. The first accelerator launches in May 2018 and runs for six months.

ukactive’s ActiveLab growth programme will cater for digital startups that are focusing on growth and scale at home and internationally, having already validated their product and generated revenue. ActiveLab launched in September 2016 and a second instalment runs for three months from March 2018.

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