The winning projects of the 2020 edition of the World Cup of Ideas will be announced. The winning projects will receive € 5,000 in training and mentoring to make their projects come true.
Many runs were organized within cities before the escalation of the pandemic. An unfortunate impact of the Covid-19 outbreak is that races, such as the Tokyo Marathon and NYC Half-Marathon, have been cancelled. Much of the money was to be donated to charities and it would have helped develop a sense of pride within communities. The key issue that needs to be solved is how to continue with a busy race season/calendar with social distancing in place.
Also, it is important to note the struggling travel economy. It is becoming clear that the long-term impact of the virus on this industry will be immense. People are far less likely to travel often, and it is expected that, on the whole, they will avoid mass gatherings. Not only will cities be struggling due to the lack of tourism, but the economic revenue created from races may also decrease(by fewer spectator participation and international race entrants). This will be devastating to the economy of local cities.
Further from the dramatic impact of Covid-19 has had, the current racing environment can have many problems. For example, there is limited access for disabled runners which can make racing in the crowds quite difficult. It can be quite expensive to travel around the world to run in integral international races in the calendar. Especially for those who are from poorer socio-economic backgrounds and/or are from developing countries, this cost can become an unbearable reason to compete less.
Another important problem that needs to be considered which has significantly worsened due to Covid-19 is the health of children. According to a global 2016 study published in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health Journal found that 80.1% of boys and 85.1% of girls are physically inactive. Furthermore, the Welsh government has published that only 14-17% of children aged 11-16 in Wales meet the recommended amount of physical activity in the country. The fact that the youth around the world are living these unhealthy lifestyles is immensely worrying. This is, as well as students’ mental health, have become significantly worse during the Coronavirus lockdown. Already vulnerable groups are at risk of falling into a sedentary routine – this is incredibly dangerous.
The residents of major cities. However, anyone can use the app and act like they are in the city.
It is often highlighted that the London Marathon is oversubscribed every year. The Virtual City Runs can ‘run’ alongside large events like these for greater inclusiveness and promoting the race’s popularity.
Students – Not only does this improve their health. It is a means of providing education in a more fun and engaging manner.
Teachers – The Daily Mile initiative in the UK encourages teachers to take students on a mile run every day. However, a study published in the British Medical Journal shows that teachers often struggle to fit this physical exercise on top of a heft curriculum. Here, an immersive experience is a perfect solution. Not only can students be taught more about their local area and heritage, but it can also be used to teach maths to primary school students (e.g teaching them to understand and calculate the pace of the run) in an enjoyable way.
Runners with an underlying condition that makes it harder for them to runs in the actual races.
Those in developing countries who cannot afford to travel but dream of competing around the world. This idea will show that the community cares and wants to be a more inclusive and accessible place.
This would use the concept of virtual-runs to help re-bolster the sense of community in cities. Runs would be organised to simulate the actual route of a cancelled/postponed run. Checkpoints would provide videos/VR of city landmarks (that can be accessed on phones) - some of which, the runners may be too far away from to see in person. This will allow people to run in their local area whilst still being able to experience the whole city.
Furthermore, these videos can be used for children. Games, such as treasure hunts, or even educational explorations of cities can be created. This can be a fun way to bring the community together, keeping children active and still delivering education.
For those runners who rather concentrate on the race and would not like to stop at checkpoints for the immersive experience, a video projecting a 3D model of them onto the race route can be provided. This will utilise photogrammetry technology – a technology that is capable of collecting information about an object without any physical contact. This is widely used to create 3D models of objects without requiring any specialist technology (as simple as a phone camera). Furthermore, we would make the pace/speed of the 3D model correspond with the actual pace changes that occurred during the run. Not only is this a great way to create a realistic immersive experience, but these videos can also act like souvenirs to re-watch and share on social media.
One of the biggest neglected group in the running community is the spectators. We want to provide an immersive experience to the spectators as well as the runners. Spectators can explore the local landmarks in more detail with virtual tours of the city. Moreover, they could also watch the virtual race digitally. Not only does this allow them to participate in the race remotely, but it also allows them to ‘live’ race day and explore the city.
The long-term potential of this idea is exhilarating. Runners could use this platform to book a virtual experience of a race when the physical tickets run out. Studies of the industry have shown that the running economy has seen a change from an achievement-based economy to an experience economy. If we are able to perfect this immersive technology, the demand for the experience itself would be tremendous.
After consulting with researchers at Cardiff Metropolitan University, we have decided that another aspect of the ‘community’ that develops around the platform should use Mindfulness Photography. The idea would simply be to encourage runners to showcase their local area by taking pictures of beautiful parts of their route. This can include things like scenic views and flowers. Allowing people to discover their local area but also connect with an international community can be a powerful way of re-connecting the world after (and during) Covid-19. This encourages people to go outside, not only for their run but also to take the picture they have been planning to share with the community. For some amateur runners, this can make running a pleasant side-effect of engaging with the community they have joined.
Due to isolation, a community can often feel disconnected. This can help strengthen people's sense of unity.
This has the potential of revolutionising both the fitness and tourism industry. It provides a simple and elegant solution and makes people more connected.
It is clear that this platform will lead to increased participation and accessibility of races. Especially for races that are sold-out quickly, this additional option for a virtual experience can be extremely helpful. As well as this, many people would rather join a virtual race if they are insecure about running around the competitive race atmosphere.
Of course, this can also help improve people's physical health. Not everyone likes to run, but this lets them try it without feeling judged and thus, can drastically increase participation in physical activity.
Also, it is important to consider the mental health benefits of running outside. These include reduced stress, reduced mental fatigue, mood elevation, and the mitigation of the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Due to the global lockdowns in place, the mental health benefits have another layer. As people can often feel lonely in their homes (even when with a family), just going outside and briefly seeing other people in the community – and simply saying ‘hello’ - can be a huge mood elevator.
I need the support of local governments and organisers of these races. This idea would be implemented in collaboration with them. I also need to partner with existing leading apps/smart pedometer companies in the fitness industry (e.g Fitbit and Strava) to gain easier access to runners’ data.
Of course, I need app developers to help create a unique and effective platform. As well as this, I will require the expertise of other tech companies, such as Orchard Media and TechMap, that can be contracted to help develop the VR technology and photogrammetry. Another potential source of knowledge and business is Tramshed Tech. This is a collaborative space based in Cardiff where a variety of businesses, including start-ups, scale-ups, and large enterprises, can work together and help each other innovate. The ability to collaborate with more experienced companies may be an essential asset at this early stage of developing the idea.
Initially, I will be able to access these resources through the support of funding grants allowing for contracting the relevant companies to begin the development of the idea. Further reference to the funding grants can be found in the economic plan.
Run4Wales – This is a leader in the race-organising sector in Wales. It has organised some of the most prominent races in the UK, including the Cardiff Half-Marathon, which is internationally recognised. The CEO has been in correspondence with us and is a vital source of advice. He agrees that there is a need for an immersive virtual run experience in the industry. This can potentially turn into a partnership to help implement the idea.
Visit Cardiff and Visit Wales – These organisations are responsible for promoting the travel sector in Wales. As this idea can largely help revitalise the tourism economy through its promotions of high-quality virtual tours, these organisations are potentially indispensable assets.
Cardiff Youth Council - This is a very influential youth body in Cardiff that represents the democratic voice of the city’s young people. This group has many connections to prominent government leaders and has the power to lobby. This group will be used for its authority and, of course, as a focus group as it comprises of relevant stakeholders in Cardiff.
Public Health Wales – The national public health agency in Wales. It would be great to consult this organisation during the development of the project and possibly even gain an endorsement by this organisation.
Sports Wales – this is the national organisation in Wales that is responsible for the development and promotion of physical activity in the country. Similar to Public Health Wales, it would be important to gain their insight and even look for a potential endorsement when the platform is created.
Cardiff Council – This is the overseeing local administrative government of Cardiff and it can be a possible group in which to lobby.
Cardiff Metropolitan University Lecturers and Researchers – We have had the pleasure of receiving the insight of lecturers and researchers at this university which has established itself as one of the leading universities for sports in science in Wales.
Cardiff Child-Friendly City Team (UNICEF) – This team has been created to show the commitment from Cardiff to promote children’s rights and voices in the city. This team has largely supported the development of the idea and are possible partners to promote the child-friendly education part of the project.
Cardiff Active Involvement Team – This is Cardiff Council’s youth participation team and has also greatly supported the development of this idea.
Establish Partnerships – May to June 2020
Initial R&D July – September 2020
Stakeholder Consultation – August 2020
Beta Release/First Events? – October 2020
Official Release – November/December 2020
Marketing Campaign and Brand establishment – Jan - February 2021
Further Exploration of Educational Opportunity and R&D March – July 2021
Of course, it should be noted that the implementation phases are subject to change due to the impact of Coronavirus.
There are many Virtual Runs out there. However, they usually only require a google form or use a picture from an app. Otherwise, companies, such as Fitbit Inc., use their specialised smart pedometers to create runs that use own-brand apps. Yet, these are lacking. They do not have the immersive experience this idea envisions.
Slowly (yet in an accelerating manner due to the Coronavirus pandemic), the attempts to provide good-quality virtual runs have become more imminent. There are some close similarities in Fitbit Virtual Runs, the Ironman Virtual Club, Zwift, and BitGym. Yet, these all fall short. Whilst Fitbit does have checkpoints, they only provide a panoramic picture of a scenic view. Whilst this can be enticing, it is not the same as videos and/or an interactive platform that lets you immersive yourself as if you are actually in the location. Ironman VC is an incredibly immersive platform and can be a prominent competitor. Still, they have created a ‘gamified’ version of running, where a jog can earn you credits. Whilst good, our idea is distinctly unique. Besides being a platform that will be created with mass participation and the ‘amateur’ racer in mind (unlike the elite runners who run the challenging Ironmans – elite triathlons), we want to partner with local cities and organisers to make the immersive virtual run an integral alternative to the classic races. Something that feels like the real deal but also, can let you explore the areas you are running in. Zwift and BitGym can be considered the biggest competitors. Whilst they have identified the gap for an immersive virtual run in the running community, both platforms target a separate and different need in the market. Firstly, the greatest pitfall of these two ideas is the fact that they only work indoors. This makes them very limited for most amateur runners who do not have a treadmill at home. Furthermore, Zwift requires an array of specialist equipment which can be quite daunting to obtain for several people – and this is an investment many are simply not willing to make at the amateur level. On the other hand, BitGym does not require the installation of complex specialist equipment due to its patented technology. However, it still only works at home and once again, loses a large proportion of the running community. It is important to note that Zwift has a large emphasis on training and thus, its use is completely different. Our platform would be a supplement to actual races whilst Zwift would be the ‘go-to’ indoor trainer. Clearly, this distinction shows that there is room for both.
Currently, the community seems to just be focused on the runners. But the spectators are just as important. For the family of elite runners, who are constantly travelling the world, going to every race can be exhausting. Our spectator feature solves this problem for the widely neglected group of runner-enthusiasts. Interestingly, almost 20 times more spectators (800,000) than runners (41,469) participated in the 2018 London marathon. Even though this group creates so much economic revenue for races, the research we have conducted has not shown any companies who are looking at this group of people. We are.
Cardiff – especially due to easier access to links through organisations such as Cardiff Youth Council and the city’s Child-Friendly City Team (who can be involved in supporting the educational and child-friendly aspects of the software). Cardiff is currently home to the second-largest half marathon in the UK, amongst many other running events put on across the year. The Cardiff Half-Marathon has been awarded the Gold Road Race Label by World Athletics – one of 2 in the UK. Therefore, this race has global prominence with international attendance and sold-out tickets. Here, the potential demand for a virtual experience is immense.
The plan would be to expand through the SuperHalfs European Half-Marathon Series. This is a partnership between 5 cities in Europe (including Cardiff) that have either World Athletics Gold Label or a certified World Athletics Championship course. If the initial launch of this idea is successful, these cities would be the obvious partners for the next expansion. This would help establish the first steps in creating the international impact of this idea. Of course, the half-marathons in London would be another aim for expansion, especially as it is the capital of the UK and it is the home of the Virgin Money London Marathon – the only other race in the UK to get the Gold Label Award mentioned earlier.
Yes, I have the connections (some of which have been referenced earlier) to bring on board the relevant companies that have the right technological means to fulfill my idea. Utilising existing technology and incorporating this into our platform (e.g VR) means that the technology to develop the app is possible.
There are partners in the City who can generate whole VR environments from the local area. I anticipate pairing these technical organisations with running apps and running race organisers to put together an immersive experience.
The turnaround time to develop 3D models is more than suitable as races are usually sold out a year in advance. Still, there will be consultation with tech companies to create a rapid turnaround time once revenue comes in to put this into R&D. This can have the potential of being a unique aspect of the virtual experience where runners can ‘sign up an hour before you run'.
We will initially access funding and grants to kick-start the project. We would consider applying for some additional funds through the Persimmon Building Futures Grant of up to 100k (created to help projects by under 18s in Health, Sports, Education, and the Arts – each category is separate) and the Sports Wales Development Grant. This will allow us to establish key partnerships with companies and gather the relevant team to begin the project. Of course, the mentorship provided by the Ideas World Cup will largely influence the amount of funding taken and the way it is spent. We will also seek the expertise of angel investors and/or other private investors who can support the beginning of the project. To further aid this, we will look at applying to gain the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) status which is a tax relief scheme to encourage investment into early-stage start-ups in the UK. Still, we want to be careful to not become too funding-dependent and instead, only use it to help kickstart and accelerate the project. Ideally, we want to become economically self-sufficient and sustainable at the earliest suitable opportunity.
We need to ensure the platform is accessible to the running community and is priced accordingly. In terms of pricing strategy, there can potentially be a competitive run feature that may determine the price based on your time. ie. Quicker finish time = cheaper price of race ticket. Mike Maples Jr., the founder of the venture capital firm Floodgate, has argued that having a distinct pricing strategy helps ensure that bigger corporations cannot ‘steal’ your ideas as that often leads to hefty restructuring in their firms (usually not an economically viable option). Once the brand has expanded and becomes established, it becomes even harder to ‘steal’ the idea even if the other companies realise its full potential.
Once the product’s exact pricing is decided. We will re-evaluate the economic plan to set short-term and long-term goals.
I will undertake further consultations with leading businesses in the industry to gain a better and more in-depth idea regarding concept and costing.