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New partnership aims to turn assistive technology concepts into prototypes

CHALLENGE Works – a Nesta enterprise – is partnering with social innovation charity Social Tech Trust, to support teams competing in the Longitude Prize on Dementia, to develop working prototypes of new assistive technologies to help people living with dementia remain independent for longer. 

The £4.34m Longitude Prize on Dementia, funded by Alzheimer’s Society and Innovate UK, is incentivising the development of breakthrough assistive technologies for people living with dementia.  

24 international teams are developing solutions that use AI to learn about their users and adapt to help ‘fill the gaps’ as their cognitive function is progressively reduced by the disease. The solutions will help people to live independently for longer while maintaining fulfilling lives. Five finalists will be selected from these 24 teams in summer 2024.  

Social Tech Trust, a charity that challenges organisations to think differently about technology’s role in society, will be helping each innovator to assess where their product might benefit from support and provide appropriate technology and data advice. The charity will also leverage its network of experts to introduce innovators to big tech companies, including Microsoft, AWS and NVIDIA. 

The semi-finalists include a range of innovations, from AI gamified software that promotes positive social experiences to help delay decline in brain function (from Memory Lane Games) to biodynamic lighting and sensor systems that can ease symptoms of sundowning – irritability and confusion that can worsen as daylight fades (from Chroma Lighting). 

New partnership aims to turn assistive technology concepts into prototypes
Dorothy App prototype being trialled at Abbcross Nursing Home, Romford.

Chris Blues, Director of Social Tech Trust said:

“Around 50 million people worldwide are living with dementia, including 900,000 in the UK. Tech has enormous power to help with many social challenges – including dementia, which can devastate lives, causing people to lose their memory, identity and sadly, relationships. Supporting innovators with technical and data support to help refine their prototypes is the first step in using technology to ease the lives of those living with dementia.” 

Wider capacity-building support and co-creation 

The partnership will form just one element of the non-financial support offered to teams participating in the Longitude Prize on Dementia. Alongside the technical support, wider support is being provided through opportunities to ensure all technologies are co-created with people living with dementia or caring for people with dementia.  

The innovators will attend two co-creation workshops this month, one focusing on social connectedness and technology features from the Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation (a Canadian partner of the prize) and another on user-centred AI design and personalisation hosted by Innovate UK and National Innovation Centre for Ageing (NICA). Co-creation is essential to ensure that new technologies developed through the prize are designed to meet the needs of their intended beneficiaries and their lifestyles. 

Alzheimer’s Society has also established 38 local focus groups involving people living with dementia and their carers. These groups will assist innovators in ensuring their product is co-designed and has considered some of the most important elements of living with dementia. International co-creation and access to user opportunities have also been set up with international partners. This will help to ensure that every innovation learns from people living with dementia and can adapt and support changing needs over time. 

Challenge Works is also offering advice and guidance from 15 dementia experts, ranging from frontline dementia healthcare professionals to, leading dementia academics as well as design and customer experience experts. The innovators will be able to book one-on-one sessions with each expert. 

Ruth Neale, Programme Manager for the Longitude Prize on Dementia at Challenge Works said:

“We’re excited to join forces with Social Tech Trust to provide semi-finalists in the Longitude Prize on Dementia with tailored technical and data support to develop their ideas into prototypes. The team at Social Tech Trust will provide a bespoke technology support package for our international cohort to drive high-quality tech products for the next stage of the competition. This is one element in the programme of capacity-building support that is being provided to teams in the next 12 months.” 

More information about the Longitude Prize on Dementia can be found at: dementia.longitudeprize.org. 

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