Innovative ideas spark a revolution

Published: 4-Mar-2014

£2.4m funding awarded to six projects aimed at transforming quality of life for older adults

Radical ideas with the potential to revolutionise the current approach to long-term care are being funded by the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board.

Six business-led projects aiming to transform quality of life for older adults are to share £2.4m in funding. The awards followed a week-long workshop which set out to develop radical, risky and novel ideas with the potential for real commercial value.

Iain Gray, chief executive of the Technology Strategy Board, said: “We focus innovation activity on areas where we think it can make the biggest difference. Late life care is often regarded as an economic liability, but it can actually be an engine for economic growth.

“This is an expanding market and we need to radically rethink our approach to long-term care provision, providing options that will enable people to live with more dignity and autonomy.”

One of the six projects will create a humanised avatar to act as a digital champion for older people, capturing their individual preferences to create a joined-up care plan. Another applies the training principles for high-performance athletes to people with long-term health issues and a third project assesses tolerance levels for stages of specific conditions.

The funding competition, called the Long Term Care Revolution, is funded through the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) scheme, which connects public sector challenges with innovative ideas from industry.

The successful projects are:

RITA - The University of Kent, University of Portsmouth, We are Snook

Project RITA involves the development of a Responsive InTeractive Advocate (RITA) which could revolutionise how an individual’s personal, social, emotional and intellectual needs are captured, interpreted and supported. RITA is designed to enable and prolong their ability to live as independently as possible, in their own homes if desired. RITA will create a digital champion, an advocate designed to respond empathetically in the form of a humanised avatar, providing a friendly interface between the individual, family, friends, professionals and services.

Poppins - Belle Media

The Poppins project explores the potential for a virtual currency that will help change attitudes to how the elderly and vulnerable are treated in society and within the dynamics of the High Street. It aims to help shops establish new relationships with a key sector of their customer-base and to build up new uses for the High Street. Through greater engagement, the project aims to promote understanding to enable older people to feel less isolated and more appreciated as valuable members of the community.

Flourish: Inspirational aging - Digital Laundry, Northumbria University, Stockholm Environment Institute, University of York; ESRC Centre on Migration, Policy and Society, University of Oxford; Cedilla Publishing

Flourish focuses on reframing the concept of need, moving away from a care system that concentrates on providing physical support towards one that focuses on positive wellbeing. It will look at the potential for technology to identify aspirations within the context of what makes life worth living and will recommend personalised plans to help people to realise them. The ambition is to work with older adults to design an intuitive, self-service tool that will help them to identify how to improve their quality of life and direct them to the care and support that might be required. The tool has the potential to improve wellbeing, provide more autonomy and control to the individual, and have a disruptive impact on the current care system.

One precious life - Rescon, Going for Independence, Lexilab

One Precious Life will be applying the principles of high-performance athlete training, service and support to people with long term health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, dementia, stroke-survivors, asthma and arthritis. Graduates with a background in high-performance training will team up with individuals from social care or health care background to develop training programmes to improve body, mind and spirit. They will then support individuals through a programme to optimise their day to day and longer term performance. The results will be assessed for the potential for delivering this approach on a larger scale.

SALTC (Simulating Ageing and Long Term Conditions) - Cardiocity

This socio-technological research project flips the long-term care problem on its head by using a multimedia simulation to explore acceptance thresholds for specific long-term conditions, starting from the final stages of life and working backwards. Through this immersive experience, it would identify the trigger points where external support is needed. Allowing people earlier in their lives to understand the connotations of long-term conditions could enable them to plan more effectively for the care that they might need in the later stage of their lives.

CASA (Connecting Assistive Solutions to Aspirations) - Leone Services, Institute of Mental Health, University of Nottingham, Bristol Robotics Laboratory, University of the West of England, Sensixa, Swiss Cottage School Development and Research Centre

CASA sets out to transform the assistive technology market. It pulls together existing and new technologies to create a better fit with people’s physical surroundings, social networks and desired lifestyles, developing an affordable personalised service that helps people maintain enjoyable, independent lives. The solutions will be co-designed by older people, young adults with learning difficulties, dementia and care experts. CASA will create and test commercially-viable models of technology-enabled independent living, to make the home a dynamic and responsive environment.

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