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What is Champions Innovate?

Champions Innovate is a programme designed to solve modern, meaningful and relevant challenges identified by UEFA and the Greater London Authority in the context of the Champions League Final.

Following a wide-ranging stakeholder consultation process, the UEFA Innovation Hub created this proprietary programme to foster collaborative work between commercial partners, innovative companies and the city hosting the climax of the European club season, with the objective of maximising the chances of leaving a lasting, positive impact.

Why?

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  • To leave a positive and lasting local legacy around the 2024 Champions League Final.
  • To go beyond what happens on the pitch: the final is much more than a football game that lasts 90 minutes.
  • To find the next champions of innovation to help develop football on and off the pitch – innovation is key to ensure the long-term prosperity of the European game.
  • To bring commercial partners together with the world’s most promising entrepreneurs to create impact which provides wide-ranging benefits.

Following a consultation period between UEFA and the Greater London Authority, key policy areas were identified and proposed to the Champions League’s official commercial partners, from which specific challenges were defined.

The challenges

PepsiCo

Context 🎵

Pepsi is responsible for organising the UEFA Champions League Final kick-off show – a six-minute performance which takes place on the pitch before the match. With Pepsi and UEFA sharing a strong commitment to tackling environmental challenges, we want the kick-off show to play its part in the delivery of a sustainable final. While the longer-term ambition is to organise a net zero show by 2030, the goal for the 2024 event is to significantly reduce its CO2 emissions. In this context, we believe that football fans can become active contributors in this quest to reduce CO2 emissions linked to the 2024 final kick-off show as well as potentially for future events hosted at the stadium.

Question 🧐

How can fans actively contribute to a substantial part of the production of the power needed for the UEFA Champions League Final kick-off show and establish a sustainable model for power generation at future events at football stadiums?

Solution 🛠

Start-ups interested in responding to this challenge were asked to ensure that the solution:

  • Is relevant to Pepsi, UEFA & stadium stakeholders
  • Has the potential to be implemented at future live events
  • Includes fans in the demonstration of the sustainability impact/message
  • Results in tangible and measurable impact
  • Has a potential for scalability in the wider football community
  • Considers carefully the production and logistical constraints of the event, especially if the proposed solutions involve the use of the playing area of the football field.
Discover: selected start-up (February 2024)
The kick-off show has become a big part of the build-up to the final
The kick-off show has become a big part of the build-up to the finalGetty Images

Just Eat Takeaway

Context 🥪

As the official food delivery partner of UEFA club competitions, Just Eat Takeaway (JET) has been working closely with UEFA over the past two seasons to reduce impact and waste at events, initially focusing on plastic packaging.

Even so, JET is looking at every aspect of operations in their commitment to being a successful climate-conscious company. This includes the food they offer, in particular providing the broadest possible choices and help customers who are searching for sustainable food choices to find more of what they love. In the context of UEFA having recently launched its sustainable catering guidelines, JET's mission is to expand the partnership with UEFA to include food choices.

Question 🧐

How to bring choice, joy and innovation to the food served around the UEFA Champions League Final (London, fan zone, the stadium) and beyond whilst also supporting fans to choose more healthy and sustainable options?

Solution 🛠

Start-ups interested in responding to this challenge were asked to ensure that the solution:

  • Is a solution that inspires fans at home, the stadium and/or at the fan zone to make healthier and more sustainable choices
  • Is a solution that is applicable and scalable for JET and UEFA stakeholders e.g. customers or restaurant partners
  • Results in tangible and measurable impact
  • Proposes trials within takeaway sector leading to the solution being showcased at UEFA Champions League Final
  • Includes fans in the demonstration of the sustainability impact/message
  • Considers carefully the logistical/operational constraints of the event, especially if the proposed solutions involve implementation at the stadium or fan zone.
Discover: selected start-up (February 2024)
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Mastercard

Context 🎫

A long-standing sponsor of the UEFA Champions League, Mastercard is a global technology company in the payments industry. Its mission is to connect and power an inclusive, digital economy that benefits everyone, everywhere by making transactions safe, simple, smart and accessible.

Recognising climate change as one of the most important issues facing the world today, Mastercard has a track record of putting innovative solutions to work protecting the planet and integrating sustainability with economic growth. These include Priceless Planet Coalition, which aims to restore 100m trees by 2025; Carbon Calculator, developed alongside Swedish fintech Doconomy and giving consumers estimated carbon footprint of their purchases; and Card Recycling, a partnership with HSBC and TerraCycle to tackle credit and debit card plastic waste in the UK.

Mastercard also proudly presents the UEFA Champions League Player Mascots, giving Priceless moments to the youngest fans and providing an experience they’ll never forget.

Question 🧐

How can we harness the power, passion and reach of football fans to create tangible, effective solutions for communities within the scope of fintech and digital fan engagement? With 3.5 billion Champions League fans worldwide, there lies an opportunity to use the platform of football to create significant shifts in climate action to benefit and impact the next generation.

Solution 🛠

Start-ups interested in responding to this challenge were asked to ensure that the solution:

  • Delivers value within the scope of Fintech to digital fan engagement (see those outlined in the Context section of this brief)
  • Considers the existing technology and initiatives of Mastercard
  • Uses our Player Mascot programme to further elevate, engage or showcase the solution with fans
  • Not only leverages the platform of 2024 UEFA Champions League Final at Wembley, but also considers how to tap into the momentum and passion of the competition throughout the season
  • Has a potential to utilise the solution by leveraging the wider footprint of the UEFA Champions League Final (e.g. city sites and communities)
  • Results in tangible and measurable impact

Discover: selected start-up (February 2024)
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Benefits for start-ups

The winning start-up will receive a €45,000 prize 🏆

Here are some of the other benefits:

Funding support

Selected start-ups are granted a financial award of €30,000, with the intention of offsetting the costs associated with executing the pilot programme.

Exclusive experimental ground

Selected start-ups benefit from exclusive access to experimental platforms facilitated by affiliations with Greater London Authority and UEFA.

Expert mentorship

Selected start-ups benefit from the expertise and mentorship of experienced professionals.

In-person workshop sessions

Selected start-ups participate in three in-person workshop sessions scheduled in London and Nyon, actively engaging and gaining valuable insights.

Valuable network

Selected start-ups have the opportunity to connect with a valuable network that includes investors, media organisations, and well-known brands, creating possibilities for collaborations and avenues for growth.

Media exposure

Selected start-ups benefit from extensive media coverage, heightened visibility, and a spotlight on their innovative efforts.

Exclusive presentation opportunity

Selected start-ups have the opportunity of presenting the pilot during an exclusive event hosted in London, a collaboration between UEFA and the Greater London Authority.

Timeline 

Champions Innovate 2023/24 ⏱

19 Sep 2023 Start-ups application phase opens worldwide for all three challenges 20 Oct 2023 PepsiCo challenge application period closes 4 Dec 2023 Application period closes for two remaining challenges 15 Dec 2023 Participating start-ups selected by the commercial partners by this date Jan-May 2024 Pilot development phase: chosen start-ups work closely with the commercial partners to develop a pilot with support from the UEFA Innovation Hub, the Greater London Authority and London & Partners. 30 May 2024 Final showcase: networking event hosted in London two days before the UEFA Champions League Final to demonstrate the outcomes of the pilot development. Jury votes for winning pilot

Eligibility requirements

Operational for two years

The start-up should have been in operation for a minimum of two years.

Possess an MVP

At the time of application, start-ups must have developed a minimum viable product (MVP) at the very least.

Selection criteria

Innovation

The proposed solution brings an innovative approach in creating value to the stakeholders involved in the delivery of a major sports event such as the UEFA Champions League Final.

Solution potential

The proposed solution has the potential to create lasting value in the long term (i.e. post UEFA Champions League Final 2024).

Impact

The proposed solution has a tangible social and/or environmental impact, and includes methods or tools to measure it.

Team

The team in place has the relevant skills, experience and expertise to deliver the project proposed in response to the challenge.

Theme fit

The team shows a deep understanding of the challenge and is able to demonstrate how their solution is a relevant response.