Yesterday I went along to #FutureFit – an event hosted at Plexal and part of London Tech Week, designed to bring together innovators, entrepreneurs and policy makers to explore how tech can play a role in getting more people moving. This was a collaboration between Plexal (the tech innovation centre at the Olympic park), London Sport, UK Active and the Open Data Institute.
It’s clear that policy makers in the UK see sport-tech and fit-tech as strategically important areas to focus on, both from an economic point of view and also as a way of addressing the persistent inactivity crisis in society.
There were some smart, innovative tech products on show including FiiT (bringing the boutique fitness trend into your living room), Chronomics (genetic tests that give you actionable insights to improve health) and BoxVR (a boxing-based VR game that was actually a really good experience). By the way, it sounds like the next generation of VR headsets could finally bring VR much more into the mainstream and unlock its potential.
There was much talk about the public health challenge of inactivity and the fact that 26% of people do less than 30 minutes of moderate exercise per week (a figure that stubbornly refuses to change year on year). It seems clear that tech has to be a big part of addressing that, but there needs to be more ideas aimed at that inactive segment of the market, rather than things that get fit people to be even fitter. Big rewards (and funding) on offer for anyone who can crack this particular challenge.
Overall there is a clear desire to see this sector grow in London and the wider UK: London Sport, UK Active and the ODI all have their own accelerator/incubator programmes (I’m a mentor on one of them), aiming to give some of these early-stage companies the support and networks to scale up. As Matthew Ryder (Deputy Mayor of London) put it, we need one or two ‘unicorns’ to emerge in this space to get everyone to really sit up and take notice of its potential. I’d love to see that happen but to get to that point, these companies need a killer idea plus big ambition, funding and investment in marketing to really scale things up.