The Open University asks businesses to set challenges for the future

Phot of The Open University Campus

The Open University is pioneering a new approach to research by asking businesses to determine future challenges that we can tackle. The “Challenge Us!” competition is now open and the university alongside Milton Keynes City Council will work with challenge teams that can make a long-term impact on the most important challenges faced by business partners. The competition runs from 8 March to 15 May 2024.

Businesses that want to propose a challenge for Milton Keynes are invited to enter their “open societal challenges” into a competition aimed at having an impact on society across the themes of Sustainability, Living Well and Tackling Inequalities.

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, which was developed to have a positive impact on society and align well with the OU’s mission to be open to people, places, methods, and ideas.

The Programme functions through organising a community of researchers to address the crucial societal challenges facing people across the world.

Commenting on this approach, Professor Shakesheff said:

“Our University has a fantastic open mission, and we make a huge impact on people’s lives by opening opportunities to everyone across society.

“Our excellent research impacts on the lives of people in all four nations of the UK and globally. Our biggest impacts come from teamwork and especially projects that are stimulated by people and organisations outside of higher education who want to work with us for the long-term. This competition aims to bring more and more people into our Open Societal Challenges programme and to create new challenges that our research teams can tackle.”

Cabinet Member for Climate Action and Innovation, Councillor Shanika Mahendran said: “We’re proud to be working alongside the OU as part of this competition which will help us to tackle everyday issues. Milton Keynes is world leading smart city and this competition will help us find solutions in improving health and wellbeing, innovative transport and continuing our sustainability mission.”

The first external launch of the Programme, which has already over 250 challenges on its online platform, will be to Milton Keynes businesses on 8 March 2024.

The Challenge Us! competition, hosted in collaboration with Milton Keynes City Council, invites companies and individuals in Milton Keynes, or any business that wants to propose a challenge for Milton Keynes to create challenges that can be tackled using technology and data. A second competition will open to UK charities on 15 March.

Shortlisted entrants will develop their entries further with OU research teams and winners will receive funding and support with their research from OU teams. The Open Societal Challenges programme already has over 250 challenges on its online platform and more information and how to enter a challenge can be found on the ‘Challenge Us!’ competition’s webpage.

Professor Shakesheff added:

“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.”

Read more about the OU’s Challenge Us! competition

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