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UK innovators have each received a share of £1 million to scale solutions to support those hardest hit by COVID-19. 

Six organisations, including not-for-profits, have been announced as the finalists in the £3m Rapid Recovery Challenge, securing £150,000 each in funding to develop innovative solutions that help people access jobs and financial support during the pandemic.  

This follows an initial £125,000 which was awarded in November 2020. 

This comes as new research from Nesta finds 18-24 year olds are twice as likely to have been made redundant or furloughed than over 45s and similarly those earning between £20,000-30,000 a year are twice as likely as those earning over £30,000 to be in this situation. 

The research also found that four in ten (40%) people who are currently out of work have been unemployed for over six months, with some groups of society particularly affected in the longer term. Men are more likely than women to be out of work for this length of time (49% vs 36% of women), as are disabled people (49% vs 31%) and those who are not university educated (42% vs 36%). 

Lack of work or job security can have a significant impact on both people’s finances and mental health. Across the UK one in five (19%) say they won’t recover financially from the pandemic for several years but this almost doubles (36%) for those who have been furloughed or made redundant. Meanwhile, four in ten (41%) of those who have been furloughed or lost their job during the pandemic say that their self-esteem has been impacted. 

The £3m Rapid Recovery Challenge, funded by Nesta with support from JPMorgan Chase and the Money and Pensions Service, was set up in response to the work and financial challenges exacerbated by the pandemic. 

The challenge is focused on supporting and scaling innovative solutions from organisations and charities that will improve the job prospects and financial situation of people across the UK, from vulnerable to marginalised groups. 

The six innovative tools are all available now and include those that support young people trying to gain work experience as they first enter the labour market, support low paid workers to access earned wages early or alternative income sources (such as grants), and help homeless and disabled people to upskill and find secure work. 

Over the coming months, Nesta’s Rapid Recovery Network – a coalition of organisations, businesses and charities – will be working with the finalists to rapidly scale these solutions and ensure they are available to as many people as possible in their time of need. 

Tris Dyson, Managing Director, Nesta Challenges, said: “While restrictions are starting to lift across the country, the financial impact that Covid-19 has brought is likely to be with many people for a long while.  

“People’s lives have been turned upside down by not only health concerns but also concerns around financial and job security. The Rapid Recovery Challenge’s goal is to ensure that millions more do not find themselves out of work and that they can see a positive financial future. 

“While we have seen numerous innovations that aim to support those whose jobs and money have been impacted by the current crisis, we need to ensure that the solutions can reach those who need them most – quickly.  

“We will be supporting the six finalists to scale their solutions at speed so they can reach and support as many people as possible, which in turn will provide both financial and job stability for many.” 

Jessica Ferguson, Co-Head of Global Philanthropy, UK, JPMorgan Chase, said: “It is critical for business, nonprofit and policy leaders to work together to address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable people and families in the UK, and advance an inclusive economy.  

“At JPMorgan Chase, we are doing our part by helping impacted people and households become more resilient, improve their financial lives and access the skills needed for stable, well-paying jobs.” 

Michael Royce, Senior Policy and Proposition Manager, Strategy & Insights at the Money and Pensions Service said: “We are proud to be supporting this important initiative, which is looking to help rebuild the financial resilience of people most impacted by the pandemic, especially young people, women, BAME communities and workers on lower or more uncertain incomes. 

“The coalition and innovative nature of this Nesta challenge very much reflect the ambitious goals that MaPS has set in its own UK strategy for financial wellbeing, in particular seeing 2 million fewer people using credit for everyday essentials, 2 million more people saving regularly and 2 million more young people receiving a meaningful financial education.”      

The Rapid Recovery Challenge six finalists are: 


Beam has created a digital Hub for disadvantaged job-seekers to give them quicker, clearer access to the knowledge, confidence, and contacts that will help them to secure stable work. Designed for a post-Covid job market, tools help people improve digital literacy, demonstrate how to navigate online application portals, and provide employer lists for in-demand sectors such as healthcare and logistics. 


Evenbreak’s Career Hive offers relevant and accessible careers support for disabled people who are looking for new or better work. Delivered by careers professionals with lived experience of disability, candidates can access bespoke careers coaching, attend events, find resources and search for jobs on an inclusive job board. 


Hastee is a holistic financial health platform that also allows workers access to a portion of their pay as soon as they have earned it. It has created a personalised financial education tool, completely free to 16-24 year olds in the UK, to help people improve their financial wellbeing. 


The IncomeMax Digital platform reunites low-income workers, insecure workers and young workers with sources of income available to them through unclaimed benefits, grants and other financial support such as help for utility bills. The new IncomeMax Messenger tool helps vulnerable customers, who prefer to talk digitally, access expert advice privately.   


A digital grants delivery platform which enables users to receive quick financial support by improving the grant process and dramatically reducing wait times for financially vulnerable applicants. Leveraging identity verification, open banking and anti-fraud technology, applicants can safely, but swiftly, apply. 


Udrafter is an online platform where businesses can access student and graduate talent on-demand and students are paid to complete degree relevant micro-internships which provide them with crucial work experience. Udrafter removes the ‘who you know’ barriers to work experience and provides equal opportunities for all students. Interns can readily access the platform for free and earn an average hourly rate of £11 compared to the national living wage of £8.91. 

Two final winners will secure £200,000 in September 2021 and, through the Challenge, Nesta’s goal is to grow and scale these ideas to reach one million people by 2023.