Frequently asked questions

If there’s something you’re unsure about, check the FAQs below

What is the Rapid Recovery Challenge? 

Nesta’s Rapid Recovery Challenge will find and support tools and services that improve access to jobs and money for people across the UK, focussing on those hardest hit by the economic shock resulting from COVID-19.

Throughout the Challenge, we will support innovators to develop and scale their potential solutions and expand their reach and impact. The two winning projects will be announced at the end of the programme in September 2021.

Please see full outline, plus detailed information on our About the Challenge page on the website.

Who is funding the Challenge?

The £2.8 million Challenge is funded by Nesta, in partnership with JPMorgan Chase Foundation and Money and Pensions Service. You can find more information about our funders on our Partners page.

Who is running the Challenge?

The Rapid Recovery Challenge is being run by Nesta Challenges.

Who is Nesta Challenges?

Nesta Challenges exists to design challenge prizes that help solve pressing problems that lack solutions. We shine a spotlight where it matters and incentivise people to solve these issues. 

We are independent supporters of change to help communities thrive and inspire the best places and most diverse groups of people around the world to take action.

We support the boldest and bravest ideas to become real, and seed long term change to advance society and build a better future for everyone. Nesta Challenges is part of the global innovation foundation Nesta.

What are challenge prizes?

Challenge prizes offer a reward to whoever can first or most effectively meet a defined challenge. Through a public competition, challenge prizes aim to tap into and engage the broadest possible community of innovators to solve a specific problem or challenge. 

Rather than specifying what a solution must look like, challenge prizes set out a clearly defined goal, along with information on how success will be measured and invite innovators to propose how they think it could be solved. This approach allows for a wide range of solutions to be considered. Find more information and examples of challenge prizes on the Nesta Challenges website.

Why is Nesta running this challenge prize?

COVID-19 has created a huge economic shock, laying bare and exacerbating pre-existing problems for people on low incomes and in precarious work. Millions face severe threats to their job security and household finances, both immediately and in the longer term, and we know that low-paid workers, people in insecure roles and those under 25 will be hit hardest.

This year, the UK could be heading for its deepest recession in generations due to COVID-19. Economic recovery is now a major challenge facing the UK. There is an urgent need to support people at risk of losing their livelihoods and financial security so that millions do not find themselves out of work, out of pocket and out of prospects.

The Rapid Recovery Challenge combines Nesta’s research on skills, jobs, labour market innovation and data science with our expertise in running challenge prizes. It aims to find, inspire and accelerate innovations that will support one million people across the UK by 2023.

Has Nesta run a challenge prize like this before?

Yes. Nesta Challenges has run over 35 challenge prizes, including the CareerTech Challenge Prize, Affordable Credit Challenge and Open Up Challenge

What are the key dates of the Challenge?

See the timeline below or visit the challenge site for more information.

Who are the target end users of the Rapid Recovery Challenge?

Please visit the what we are looking for section of the website to learn more about the Challenge’s target end users.

Why is the Challenge focused on helping solutions achieve impact at scale?

2.6 million individuals in the UK are likely to be out of work and in insecure financial situations due to COVID-19. The urgency and size of this problem requires high quality solutions that can rapidly scale. 

Existing tools and services tend to either serve a large generic user base at scale or are hyper-tailored to smaller niche audiences – few meet the needs of the Challenge’s target end users at scale.

Therefore the Rapid Recovery Challenge aims to work with participants to adapt well-functioning pilots to meet the needs of this target group as well as developing credible, evidenced plans to rapidly scale.

What do you mean by job recovery?

Job Recovery Stream – this stream supports solutions that connect younger workers or those in (or who have recently lost) low-paid or insecure work into open jobs that match their skill sets. To help make these connections to live jobs, we expect solutions in this stream may also provide tailored learning, training, or advice to people seeking work.

What do you mean by financial recovery?

Financial Recovery Stream – this stream supports solutions that help younger workers or those in (or who have recently lost) low-paid or insecure work access financial assistance more easily, manage their cash flow or, where necessary, access affordable, responsible credit. 

Where is there more information about the Challenge?

You can visit our website or reach out to us directly at

The £2.8 million Challenge is funded by Nesta, in partnership with JPMorgan Chase Foundation and Money and Pensions Service

We are also supported by partners providing non-financial support. Please visit our Partners page for more details on our project partners

Are there restrictions on how funding is spent?

Funding must be used to develop participants’ winning entry in ways that will improve access to jobs and money for people across the UK, focussing on those hardest hit by the economic shock resulting from COVID-19

Can the Challenge funding act as matched funding for live solutions?

Yes, funds can sit alongside other income streams you may have, so long as your solution meets the requirements of the Challenge.

Do you take any equity %?

We do not take equity.

Is the funding cumulative?

Yes, the two winners will be in receipt of £475,000 in total.

What if the cost to develop our solution is more or less than £125K?

Funding for challenge prizes differs from that of traditional grant funding – we set an aim, give support and ask you to tell us how you might solve this problem. We are then not prescriptive as to how you spend the funding as long as it is to continue developing and scaling the solution you entered into the Challenge. We may ask for high level reporting to demonstrate this.

Who can enter the Challenge?

Please see the Challenge eligibility criteria and further details about what we are looking for in solutions.

What stage of development do solutions need to have reached in order to enter?

Solutions should (at minimum) have a well-functioning prototype that’s been piloted with at least 1,000 users. We understand this won’t mean the same thing to every team who applies. Your existing solution may have a different user base and you’re now looking to pivot to meet the aims of the Challenge; you might still be in beta testing; you might have well over 1,000 users but are looking to develop a particular component of your solution’s functionality to meet the aims of the Challenge; or you may be in a slightly different situation. There is space to explain this when you apply to the Challenge.

Visit our what we are looking for page on the website for more detail on our scaling expectations.

You talk about scaling to certain numbers of “users” at different stages of the Challenge. How do you define “users”?

“Users” are those who engage with your solution. 

See the what we are looking for page for the number of users you are expected to reach at each stage.  On entry, solutions should (at minimum) be a well-functioning prototype that’s been piloted with at least 1,000 users. These 1,000 users do not need to be composed of the Challenge’s target end users: younger workers and those in (or recently out of) low-paid or insecure work. At future assessment stages, users should be composed of the Challenge’s target end users.

Your plan to reach the Challenge’s target end users will be assessed as part of the Scaling assessment criterion. The depth of your engagement with these end users – how much you’re helping them – will be assessed as part of the Impact assessment criterion.

The 1,000 users required on entry –  to what level should we have engaged with them? Does a survey or email count?

Through the judging process, we will be looking to see that you have experience of engaging users with the prototype you are applying with.  Whilst these may not match the target audience for Rapid Recovery Challenge you will have used your prototype with them or parts of your prototype with them to some degree.

Is 1,000 users just restricted to 1 solution or could we demonstrate that we have had 1,000 users on other tools and solutions?

The 1,000 users are restricted to the solution you are further developing / adapting and scaling for the challenge.

If the product is supposed to be innovative why do we already need to have engaged the service with 1,000 users?

Unlike many challenge prizes, the Rapid Recovery Challenge is focused on scaling rather than unearthing untested ideas. We think that there are many ideas out there which may have been tested or used on relatively small user bases (i.e from 1,000) which may be suitable for scaling. We are interested in the innovation itself as well as the innovative approach to scaling.

We engage more than 1,000 users via social media with video content. Does this count as the 1,000+ user base you require on entry?

For the purposes of the Rapid Recovery Challenge we are looking for solutions which have tested their tool or service on at least 1,000 users on entry. If this form of engagement is the same as or very similar to the product or service you will be applying to the Challenge with and you feel it meets the aims of the Challenge then this would meet user requirements.

Would solutions which have greater than 10,000 users for the first stage be at a disadvantage?

Not at all. We have set a minimum user entry requirement but are totally open to solutions with larger user numbers.

What if we have a credible plan to scale to more than the 60,000 users specified. Is it an advantage?

For the purposes of this Challenge we have our sights set on the 60,000 users in total by 2023. If you have larger aspirations than this, it may contribute to a higher score on our scaling assessment criteria (one of our five criteria).

The Impact assessment criterion states that, when assessing applicants to the Job Recovery Stream, “judges will consider solutions’ potential to help target end users secure work”. How many target end users do we need to help secure work by 2021?  

There is no prescribed number. See the what we are looking for page for the number of users you are expected to reach at each stage; however, we recognise these users may not all have secured work by the end of the Challenge.

Can you define further your classification of users through the semi-finalist, finalist and winner scaling stages of the Challenge?

We will be accepting applications from a wide variety of organisations each with unique definitions of what a ‘user’ is. The aims for each stream are as detailed here. Users will be those that engage with your tool, product or service. On the job stream, we are ultimately looking for users to be connected to desirable employment, on the financial stream we are ultimately looking for users to gain better control over their finances. We understand that not all users will reach the ultimate stage of the user journey. 

The Impact assessment criterion states that, when assessing applicants to the Job Recovery Stream, “judges will consider solutions’ potential to help target end users secure work”.  Do judges only care about the number of target end users who secure work?

No. The full Impact assessment criterion states that solutions should “make a meaningful and sustained positive difference on the lives of the Challenge’s target end users”.  In the Job Recovery Stream, part of this assessment is the number of target end users that secure work – but judges will also consider how solutions help end users secure work and how desirable the work is. 

How are you asking participants to report on user numbers throughout the Challenge?

Throughout the Challenge, we’ll be looking for evidence to back up these user numbers. We understand this evidence may look different for each team.

How do you envision business models of the solutions? Can we charge end users?

The Challenge is open to different business models. While we have no restrictions that say you cannot charge end users, solutions need to cater to the Challenge’s target audience and be affordable for them to use (as evaluated through the ‘feasibility’ assessment criterion). Through your application, you can tell us how you have taken this into consideration and if you have a paywall / are charging for your service we would like to hear how your target audience will access your solutions.

Are there any types of solutions that are excluded from applying?

We are open to all types of solutions that meet what we are looking for.

Do applicants have to be based in the UK to be eligible?

No, applicants do not need to be registered within the UK. Solutions must directly benefit the UK population; however it is not required that solutions exclusively benefit the UK population. Please see eligibility criteria for further information.

What kind of legal entities can enter?

Organisations must be registered entities (inclusive of businesses, charities, community groups and public bodies); however, it is not required that organisations be registered specifically within the UK. Please see eligibility criteria for further information.

Do solutions have to function beyond 2023?

Organisations and solutions may continue to be operational beyond 2023, but we are equally open to hearing from solutions which look to only function until ~2023.

Do solutions need to address all four nations of the UK?

Solutions must directly benefit the UK population but do not necessarily need to address all four nations of the UK (or any particular geographic area). As long as your solution can meet our scaling requirements we are happy to accept applications from organisations who target any and all areas of the UK

Do solutions need to be digital/technological?

No. We are open to all solutions that meet what we are looking for.

Are companies which Nesta has invested in and holds equity in excluded from participating due to conflict?

No, but this should be reported as a potential conflict of interest on the application form

Can organisations enter in partnership?

Yes. Please identify one Lead applicant and clearly explain the role of each co-applicant in the application form. 

Can applicants enter more than one solution?

You are open to submit as many applications as you like as either a lead or a co-applicant. If you are the lead applicant of a semi-finalist project then no other projects you are involved in can be selected to progress. But if you are not the lead applicant for any selected projects then multiple projects where you are a supporting partner can be included.

Can solutions entered into another competition be submitted to this challenge prize?


Can business-facing solutions apply?

The Challenge is not accepting applications for products aimed at business to business staff redeployment; however, other business-facing solutions are welcome to apply. Please note all applicants will be expected to demonstrate their impact on individual end users. 

Does business creation come under this challenge?

For this Challenge, in the Job Recovery stream, we are focusing on connecting individuals to open jobs. For this reason, we are not looking for solutions focused on helping individuals with entrepreneurship or business creation.

Can I apply if I have previously been awarded funding from Nesta?

Yes. We ask that you declare any previous involvement with other Nesta projects as a “potential conflict of interest” on the application form so we are aware, but this will not preclude you from participating.

Could we use a prototype that is delivered in one particular geographical area to then scale it across new areas?

Yes, you can.

You mentioned the solution has to benefit the UK population. Beyond that, is the broader global impact of the solution relevant?

We are interested in the UK population for the purposes of this Challenge so any global impact will not factor into our decision-making.

“Access to money” could mean getting people indebted, which could cause detriment, please can you clarify?

The Challenge’s Finance Recovery Stream focuses on improving access to money by: supporting solutions that help younger workers or those in (or who have recently lost) low-paid or insecure work access financial assistance more easily, manage their cash flow or, where necessary, access affordable, responsible credit.

How is the Challenge structured and what are the key dates?

Visit Challenge overview for details about the Challenge structure and key dates. 

How do I enter the Challenge?

Visit application guidance for full details on how to apply.

How long will it take to enter? 

The time to apply may vary from applicant to applicant. We recommend logging onto the application platform to view the questions prior to submitting your application or reviewing our PDF application form so you can assess how long this may take to complete.

What happens if I have a technical issue?

We advise you to start your application as early as possible; unfortunately, we cannot be responsible for technical difficulties after the application deadline of 12 pm (noon) GMT 26 October 2020. If you have problems with the Submittable online form please contact us at

Is there a registration fee?


If the leading organisation is for-profit but all the partners are not-for-profit, will this application be considered for-profit or not-for-profit?

Applications will be considered for-profit or not-for-profit based on the lead applicant’s governance status only.

What are you counting as not-for-profit organisations?

For the purpose of this challenge, not-for-profit organisations are independent organisations whose purpose and legal structures require they not make a private profit for directors, members or shareholders. These organisations will likely be registered charities, community interest companies or companies limited by guarantee with restrictions on private profit distribution.

Can I edit my application once it’s been submitted?

No. You are able to store your application in draft mode on the Submittable platform so please take care to only submit once you are sure you are ready to do so.

I have a question about my Challenge application. How can I get help?

  • Webinars – watch one of our information sessions to hear more about the Challenge. Webinar 1 can be viewed here. Webinar 2 can be viewed here.
    Should you need to discuss your application further, the Rapid Recovery team is offering 15 minute chats about your proposed solution. Please note the team will not be able to offer in-depth advice and that the judging panel, not the Rapid Recovery team, will be responsible for selecting semi-finalists, finalists and winners throughout the Challenge. Please book your 15 minute slot with a Rapid Recovery team member if you want to talk them through your application. This service will come to an end by 23 October 2020.
  • Please feel free to reach out to the team at any time at

Will I be required to travel if I enter the Challenge?

Under normal circumstances, we would ask participants to attend a number of in-person events throughout the duration of the Challenge. These events could be based in locations around the UK and Nesta would reimburse reasonable travel costs. Due to COVID-19, we have decided all events will be held online until (at least) November. As COVID-19 presents changing and unknown circumstances we will be reviewing this position in November and will communicate changes to all participants. 

Do applicants need to achieve a certain turnover or have been in business a certain amount of time? 

No, there are no turnover or established business requirements. We are looking for applicants to take note of the capability section of the assessment criteria and help us understand your organisation’s capabilities.

How will you ensure that new proposals do not duplicate existing local services?

Our expert judging panel have a good understanding of the solution landscape to this problem and will aim to steer clear of solution duplication. This will be considered when scoring the the “innovation” assessment criterion.

How are the semi-finalists, finalists and winners chosen?

Please see our application guidance for details on the assessment process.

Who is on the judging panel?

Judges will be announced on the website during the application period.

Are some assessment criteria weighted more than others?

No. When selecting semi-finalists, judges will weigh all five assessment criteria equally. 

Do applicants keep the intellectual property of their idea?

Both successful and unsuccessful applicants will retain their intellectual property rights. 

Will entries to the Challenge be kept confidential?

Entries will be kept confidential. Entrants are required to share information with Nesta for the purposes of administering the Challenge. Nesta may in turn share this information with our partners in this Challenge, subject to appropriate obligations of confidentiality and data protection. More information on how we use your personal data is included in our privacy policy.

What support do those who are successful receive as part of the Challenge?

Please see the support we provide for all information on financial and non-financial support.

Is the funding subject to taxation?

The funding will be paid in pounds sterling and the Challenge winner is responsible for payment of tax and other charges in relation to the award of the funding.

The first prize deliverable is a credible plan to be complete by April 2021. Is the aim that the first £125k is used to validate a winning idea (not to scale)?

The first scaling target is set for September 2021 when solutions should have engaged with 10,000 users.  We understand different organisations may be at different stages of validation and scaling at different points along the Challenge timeline.

These FAQs will be updated should additional questions arise. Any new responses will be marked with the date they have been added.

If you have questions about the Rapid Recovery Challenge which are not answered in the FAQs or elsewhere on the website, please contact us by emailing

Please ensure you have read our terms and conditions.