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Encouraging response to OU call for external Open Societal Challenges

The Open University logo with the words Open Societal Challenges on it

The Open University (OU) has received a very encouraging response to its call for entries from UK charities and Milton Keynes businesses to take part in the Open Societal Challenges ‘Challenge Us!’ competition.

The competition, which opened in March of this year, allowed external organisations to pose challenges relevant to their business in order to collaborate with OU researchers on tackling some of society’s most pressing issues across the themes of Sustainability, Living Well, Tackling Inequality and International Development.

The charity response

A total of 59 UK charities responded to the call with challenges such as novel approaches to environmental sustainability and several projects to empower others and to provide safer environments for potentially vulnerable groups.

Interest from MK businesses

The competition also challenged MK businesses to find the most exciting research ideas tackling real-world problems using technology and data. Among the 10 entries received were challenges to provide more interactive mental health solutions, more sustainable solar panels, and better use of technology to addressing barriers to lifelong education for workers.

The Open Societal Challenges Programme, the brainchild of Professor Kevin Shakesheff, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Research & Innovation, is a unique approach to research introduced in 2022, focused on nurturing research that has a meaningful impact on society, in synchrony with the OU’s mission to be open to people, places, methods, and ideas.

Bringing more curious minds together

The ethos of the Open Societal Challenges programme is to bring people together to tackle real-world challenges through outstanding research.      

Commenting on this approach, Professor Shakesheff said:

“We are delighted with the response to opening our Open Societal Challenges up to external organisations and this opportunity to bring more curious minds together. We decided to run these competitions because we want more voices to have a say in our research and to find the most exciting research ideas tackling real-world problems.”

Funding will be allocated across a number of streams in 2024-25. The first funding stream is being shortlisted over the summer when teams will continue to develop their challenges and the recipients will be announced in September.

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