UK’s first major innovation partnership focused on using new technologies to improve workers’ pay, prospects and power launches today

The Resolution Foundation has brought together leading charitable foundations, social investors and businesses to launch The Workertech Partnership – the UK’s first-ever innovation programme to support social entrepreneurs and start-ups focused on improving conditions and career paths for workers locked in low-paid and precarious employment.

The £1.3 million partnership opens today (Tuesday) for applications from those with plans to build worker-focused platforms, apps and online tools – from accessing training, to amplifying workers’ voices and assessing whether work sites are Covid-secure.

‘Workertech’ is backed by Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Friends Provident Foundation, Accenture, Ufi VocTech Trust and Trust for London.

The partnership says that finding ways of using new technology to improve working conditions has never been more important. While technology is already transforming the world of work – from app-based firms to the roll-out of remote workplaces – these technologies can end up pushing risk onto insecure workers, or targeting only higher-paid white collar roles.

However, the Covid-induced jobs crisis has exposed major problems at the lower-paid and insecure end of the UK labour market.

Resolution Foundation research has shown that around three-in-ten 18-24 year olds, low paid workers and people on insecure contracts who were employed pre-crisis are either out of work, furloughed, or lost pay and hours due to coronavirus – compared to one-in-six workers across the workforce as a whole.

The partnership argues that Government policy must play a key role in addressing these problems – whether through a higher minimum wage, investment in training, or stronger enforcement of labour market regulations.

However, it is equally important that workers themselves feel empowered to secure changes – whether through better information about pay and conditions, creating innovative ways of accessing skills that help them secure a career path into higher paid work, or via new ways of getting their collective voice heard. Workertech will back innovative ideas that help achieve these aims.

Workertech – the first partnership of its kind in the UK – will provide seed funding and access to the networks and labour market knowledge of both the Resolution Foundation and its partners, including Bethnal Green Ventures’ successful Tech for Good programme.

In addition, the programme will build a broad coalition of organisations supporting worker-based innovation in the UK – the kind of which is already growing fast in the US – spanning unions, social investors, charities and leading employers.

The new programme builds on a successful pilot scheme, led by Resolution Foundation, which has already supported ventures that have helped hundreds of thousands of workers.

These include Organise – an online petitioning platform that has won multiple improvements to pay, rights and conditions at work – and Earwig – a new online venture aimed at improving conditions for construction workers.

Social entrepreneurs and start-ups interested in Workertech are invited to apply by contacting the Resolution Foundation here.

Louise Marston, Director of Ventures at the Resolution Foundation, said:

“Technology is changing the world of work rapidly. But too often that change is being driven with only the needs of firms in mind, and sometimes to the detriment of workers at the sharp end of the labour market.

“If the Covid crisis has taught us anything, it’s the urgent need to find new ways of supporting insecure workers. That’s why we have brought together this pioneering coalition of leading charitable foundations, social investors and businesses to launch Workertech – the UK’s first worker-focused innovation fund.

“We are backing those focused on building workers’ skills and employability, improving their pay and conditions, and raising their collective voice. We want to work with civil society – including unions, businesses and charities – to shape a fairer post-Covid labour market with higher wages, better working conditions, and more routes out of low-paid work.”

Notes to Editors

  • Workertech is funded by Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Friends Provident Foundation, Ufi VocTech Trust, Accenture, Trust for London (pending) and the Resolution Foundation.
  • Bethnal Green Ventures are Europe’s leading early-stage ‘Tech for Good’ VC, with over eight years’ experience of supporting Tech for Good ventures. Through the WorkerTech partnership with Resolution Ventures and Accenture they have invested in Organise, Labour xchange, Workerbird, Earwig, and Upskill Me and Tendo, and build a community of changemakers interested in shaping a fairer future of work. Information about applying to be the Workertech programme at Bethnal Green Ventures is available here.
  • Further information about The Workertech Partnership, including the kind of projects it is looking to support, who is backing the fund, the ventures it has already supported, and how to apply, is available here.