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New £1.4 million data prize to tackle depression and anxiety in young people

Social Finance, a not-for-profit organisation, has partnered with global charitable foundation Wellcome, to launch the Data Prize in Mental Health in the UK and South Africa. The application process launches on 4 April and invites mental health researchers and data scientists to explore what existing longitudinal datasets can tell us about preventing, treating, and managing anxiety and depression in young people. A total of £1.4 million will be awarded across three phases with the top £500,000 prize to be shared between three winning multidisciplinary teams to research and develop a digital tool for mental health research.

Dr. Catherine Sebastian, Head of Evidence: Mental Health Challenge Area, Wellcome, said:

“Anxiety and depression are already among the biggest causes of disability in the world and rising, but we still know very little about what makes a difference when preventing, managing and treating these conditions. Wellcome wants to change that by increasing scientific understanding and developing new and improved early interventions.”

Collaborative approaches and inter disciplinary learning are key to progressing mental health research and the formation of multi-disciplinary teams is an essential requirement to take part in the prize.  

To involve those that are most likely to benefit from this new research, Social Finance set up a Youth Advisory Network. This enables a group of young people from South Africa and the UK with lived experience of anxiety and depression to input on decisions within the prize, from overall design to how proposals will be evaluated. 

Toby Eccles, Development Director at Social Finance, said:

“The Mental Health Data Prize represents the bringing together of best practice from across disciplines - not only delivering novel research and tools to enable further research, but doing so in a way that respects lived experience and local knowledge. This is such an exciting opportunity to understand how existing data sets, data science methodologies and iterative ways of working could provide a new format for collaborative research.”

The data prize will seek input around the questions: what are the active ingredients that make a difference in preventing, treating, and managing anxiety and depression in young people? What works, for whom, in what contexts, and why? To help answer this, teams will explore longitudinal datasets from South Africa and the UK such as Birth to 30 and the Millennium Cohort Study. These valuable resources allow researchers to assess how participants in the study develop over time and explore how a range of biological, social and psychological factors can impact mental health.

Dr. Ekin Bolukbasi, Data Prizes Manager, Wellcome, said:

“Through the Prize, we want to encourage teams to use existing data resources to develop new insight on youth anxiety and depression.  Alongside this, we’re hoping to hear from researchers and data scientists about the digital tools they need and to fund multi-disciplinary teams to develop them. I can’t wait to see what the teams come up with.”

The process will involve:

  • Application deadline: 5 June
  • Team matchmaking to assist the formation of multi-disciplinary teams
  • Discovery phase from 8 August 2022: 10 teams will receive £40,000 across this phase to analyse existing data to answer their research question
  • Prototyping phase: five teams receive a further £100,000 funding to develop a tool for mental health research
  • Sustainability phase: £500,000 will be allocated across three winning teams to develop their prototype

To find out more visit the website and sign up to the newsletter to register your interest.

Notes to editors:

Further information

Email: media@socialfinance.org.uk
Tel: 020 7947 0305

For further information including eligibility criteria and the selection process please visit the Prize website.

About Wellcome

Wellcome supports science to solve the urgent health challenges facing everyone. We support discovery research into life, health and wellbeing, and we’re taking on three worldwide health challenges: mental health, global heating and infectious diseases.


About Social Finance

Our vision is of a fairer world, where together we unleash the potential of communities. We are a not for profit group that combines financial insight, data science, service design and research to tackle the toughest social problems through a strong focus on outcomes. We work with communities, governments, funders and partner organisations to develop pioneering solutions for lasting social change in the UK and globally.  



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