31/10/2011 07:13 GMT | Updated 28/12/2011 05:12 GMT

£250k Challenge for Digital Entrepreneurs Over 55

There are about 9.7 million people, 16% of the entire UK population, aged 65 and over. This figure is set to rise by 2033 to about 16.4 million people, or 23% of the population. And for those interested in longer term predictions, it is projected that by 2083, one in three people in the UK will be over the age of 60.

These descriptions represent a significant number of people and although it is useful to use terms like 'ageing population' or even 'older people' to represent the shift in the demographic make-up of the UK (and indeed the wider world), it belies an incredibly diverse group. The over-55 population can describe a difference of up to 50 years' life experience between those in early older age and those in late old age; it can describe people in good health and poor health; those who are physically or socially isolated or those living with, or supported by families; those who are digitally connected, and those who are digitally excluded.

There is another really important group within these figures, and that is the growing number of entrepreneurs and digital entrepreneurs over the age of 55. A recent study commissioned by Nominet Trust found that the largest number of British entrepreneurs are 55 years and over - despite nearly two fifths of people polled (39 per cent) believing that most entrepreneurs were aged between 25 and 34.

Suddenly we can start to see the imposing figures of our 'ageing population' not as a problem but as a source of huge potential if we can mobilise this group's entrepreneurial and digital savvy to address problems in their lives and communities using the internet.

From today, Nominet Trust is inviting applications for digital entrepreneurs over the age of 55 to win a share of £250,000 to help them launch internet companies that address social challenges for people over 65.

This builds on a report recently published by Nominet Trust, authored by Professor Christine Milligan and Dr Don Passey that looks at current uses of the internet by those over 65 as well as some areas that provide incredible opportunities for entrepreneurs of all ages.

The report shows:

  • That there is a real need for products, services and technologies for older people that have been designed with, or by, those over the age of 65
  • That older people are well placed to support their peers in benefiting from using the internet, accessing a range of products and services, and
  • That there is evidence for considerable market opportunities for entrepreneurs interested in creating products and services for the 'silver market'
  • There are of course already a number of really exciting uses of the internet for this group, from targeted social networks such as Gransnet, I Don't Feel 50 and Saga Zone, as well as innovative approaches to supporting older people to get online such as the outreach work of UK Online Centres; Simply Unite's tools, Media Trust's Community Voices work and the beautiful and intuitive Internet Buttons to name but a few. There's lots going on, and we hope this is just the beginning.

Anyone over the age of 55 with a good idea for a start-up which uses the internet to address specific social problems facing older people, designs new and better ways for older people to use the internet, or makes older people feel more comfortable using technology in general - is eligible to apply for a share of the fund.