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£4mn prize fund launches to find new technologies for people with early-stage dementia

Melanie May | 27 September 2022 | News

An older woman with short grey hair, wearing a grey coat, smiles at the camera. By Ravi Patel on Unsplash

Alzheimer’s Society, Innovate UK and Challenge Works have come together to launch the Longitude Prize on Dementia, a £4.34 million prize fund for new technologies to help people with early-stage dementia to live independent and fulfilled lives.

The prize is funded by Alzheimer’s Society and Innovate UK and delivered by Challenge Works. It calls for innovators globally to use artificial intelligence to create breakthrough technologies that learn from a person living with dementia, adapting and compensating for their condition as it progresses, and help them maintain their independence.

A survey released yesterday of people with close family and friends living with dementia found that 54% would be less concerned about their relative’s safety if they had technology to help them live independently, and six in ten believe technology will become even more important in the future for managing dementia.

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The survey also reveals that although some reported that loved ones benefitted from existing technology including monitoring devices (20%), GPS tracking devices (16%), and phone reminders (14%), over a quarter of people said their relatives didn’t use technology at all (26%).

Kate Lee, Chief Executive Officer, Alzheimer’s Society said:

“We know that people with dementia want to live independent, fulfilled lives doing the things they love and our research shows that people feel that technology could play a crucial part in helping them live the lives they want.

 

“Most existing technology for people with dementia is designed to keep them safe, or give their carers peace of mind. But there are huge opportunities to harness cutting-edge technology to help fill in the gaps in their brain and thinking as their condition progresses.

 

“The results showed that many felt technology, like facial recognition, could help them communicate when their speech declines, but would not be available in their loved ones’ lifetime, however amazingly it already exists in the apps and smart technology we use every day. We could repurpose the software of TikTok and WhatsApp to help people put a name to a face or remember a word. The new Longitude Prize on Dementia will open up huge possibilities in this area, making technology work for people living with dementia and their families.”

The £4.34 million Longitude Prize on Dementia will award £3.34 million in seed funding and grants to the most promising innovators, with a £1 million prize awarded to the winner in early 2026. Entries close on 26 January 2023.

Funders CareTech Foundation, The Hunter Foundation and Heather Corrie are supporting the Longitude Prize, with their funding going towards a £1 million first prize as well as bolstering wider support to give innovators insight and expertise, such as access to data, collaboration with people with dementia, and expert advice on product design and business aspects of the innovation. The prize has also received funding from the Medical Research Council.

Jonathan Freeman MBE, CEO, CareTech Foundation, commented:

“Dementia is a devastating disease that robs individuals of their identity, and, with the numbers of people diagnosed set to continue to rise, we know that getting care and support right is so important for our ageing population, family carers and for everyone who works in social care. That’s why finding innovative technology to revolutionise the day-to-day lives of those living with dementia will provide timely and critical solutions. At CareTech, we have already invested in cutting edge technology which could transform the way we care for people and it will inevitably be a key part of how we all deliver the best care in the future. Our decision to be part of this Prize was a no-brainer and we are excited to see it unleash the potential of talented innovators.”

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