The Ufi Charitable Trust announces new funding to stimulate innovative services for adult learners
Do you have innovative ideas about how to use digital technologies for vocational learning? A working prototype awaiting backing? The UFI Vocational Learning Tech Challenge fund is now open for applications and educational developers are already responding.

The fund’s focus is on helping adults acquire the skills that are crucial for a swiftly changing jobs market, and that employers say are still lacking.

“Ufi is excited to be launching this call for projects in Vocational Learning Technology,” says Rebecca Garrod-Waters, chief executive of the Ufi Charitable Trust (the education investor organisation born out of the former UFI (University for Industry).

'Projects that can catalyse change'

Rebecca Garrod-WatersRebecca Garrod-Waters“We believe that technology has a much greater part to play in helping adults to get the skills needed for work in the 21st century, by making vocational learning quicker, more accessible, more flexible and more affordable.

“Digital technology provides new ways to access peers, content and experts and provide new experiences for leaners - we are looking for projects that can catalyse change in the delivery of vocational skills in the UK.”

Details of the announcement can be seen on the trust’s website. Grants of between £15,000 and £50,000 are available for each successful application for 12 months. And there are no strings attached – like equity stakes or loan repayments. Successful ventures would retain their intellectual property rights for successful projects developed with this funding.

The programme seeks proposals that "demonstrate the potential use of digital technology in novel and imaginative ways to develop new services or improve access and delivery of adult vocational learning". The intention is to help developers turn their ideas into robust digital products or services.

'Longterm problems of skills shortages'

The announcement states: “The Vocational Learning Tech Fund is driven by UfI’s view that current education and training systems are not solving the longterm problems of skills shortages. Many people have not been engaged by traditional teaching and learning methods... This is why Ufi Charitable Trust is launching the Vocational Learning Tech Fund to support UK-based entrepreneurs and organisations to build innovative, tech-led, vocational teaching and learning solutions.

Education adviser and Ufi trustee Bob Harrison, who works with industry, government, schools and colleges, gave the new programme a warm welcome. "The Ufi Charitable Trust is proving a very important catalyst for developments in learning with technology in what has otherwise been a very lean time," he said. "It gives educators and developers a wonderful opportunity to establish the value of the technologies hitting the headlines – like Moocs, mobile and simulations – and prove their worth for learning, while embedding them in much-needed new practice."

The Ufi Charitable Trust has already funded a series of innovative education services making use of technology, the best known of which is the Citizen Maths website for helping adults gain maths skills.

More information 
Ufi Charitable Trust 
Vocational Learning Tech Fund
Apply page
Register for account
Initial application form
Events to help applicants
Pre-application webchat (April 29 or May 6) or attend a pre-application workshop in London, Bristol or Birmingham 
Article by Ufi Charitable Trust chief executive Rebecca Garrod-Waters