Vodafone to dial into tech firms with '˜social purpose'

Mobile phone heavyweight Vodafone is looking to connect with start-ups and early-stage ventures after unveiling a UK social innovation fund.

Vodafone is appealing for Scottish businesses to tap into award funding totalling £300,000. Picture: Contributed
Vodafone is appealing for Scottish businesses to tap into award funding totalling £300,000. Picture: Contributed

The firm said it was inviting “innovative” Scottish businesses to apply for potential funding, though applications need to be in by 23 October.

Its new technology award programme – branded 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”.

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The initiative has been developed in partnership with the mobile giant’s charitable arm, the Vodafone Foundation, and Social Tech Trust – a dedicated supporter of socially motivated tech ventures.

In addition to financial awards, winners are set to benefit from access to industry and technology expertise enabling them to take their innovations from prototype to market readiness. This will include coaching, commercial development support, mentorship, investment and partnership advice.

The social innovation award fund for 2018 totals £300,000. It is open to UK-based inventors, innovators, charities, social enterprises, businesses and entrepreneurs, with prototype ideas. All applications must have a clearly defined social purpose.

Judging will take place in December with finalists revealed in January. The winners will be announced at an awards event in London the following month.

Danny Kelly, Vodafone’s head of Scotland, said: “We know there are many organisations and individuals across Scotland who are developing innovative technology solutions with a social purpose. Vodafone Techstarter is an exciting opportunity that could help them to take their idea to the next level.”

Anne Sheehan, enterprise director at Vodafone UK, added: “We are committed to supporting start-ups across the UK. I’m particularly excited to be encouraging new innovations that will contribute positively to the world we live in.

“The scaling of technology solutions can be a challenge for any start-up, and particularly for socially-motivated tech ventures.

“I’m very much looking forward to seeing the entries and helping to bring the ideas of our Vodafone Techstarters to market.”

Bill Liao of Social Tech Trust 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.”