Scientists chase £4m prize for innovations to help dementia patients

·2 min read
dementia
dementia

Cutting-edge technology to help dementia patients speak forgotten words or keep them living in their homes for longer is being sought with the launch of a £4 million innovation prize fund.

Alzheimer’s Society, Innovate UK and the Medical Research Council will on Wednesday night announce the Longitude Prize on Dementia to encourage inventors to come up with new ways to help people cope with the neurodegenerative disease.

Organisers said projects might involve Netflix-like platforms which could make recommendations about what to buy at the shops, or people or places to visit.

Or facial recognition technology could learn non-verbal communication of dementia patients so that it could offer up the right word, or contact a loved one.

The prize will award £3.1 million in seed funding and grants to the most promising innovators, with a £1 million prize awarded to the winner in early 2026.

Kate Lee, chief executive officer of the Alzheimer’s Society said: “We know that there are treatments around the corner, but we want to change the way people are living with dementia now.

Opportunity to help ‘live joyfully and independently’

“Current technologies supporting dementia care focus on monitoring people and alerting their carers, but there are real opportunities for innovation which will support people to live joyfully and independently.

“The Longitude Prize on Dementia will deliver technologies that become an extension of the individual’s working ‘brain’ and memory in a way that is specific to their needs – enabling them to continue living at home and doing the things they love for as long as possible.”

There are 944,000 people with dementia in the UK, which is expected to increase to more than one million by 2030 and more than 1.6 million by 2050.

Professor John Iredale, interim executive chair at the Medical Research Council, said: “Our aim is to transform our understanding of the causes and progression of dementia so we can find better ways to diagnose, treat and prevent it.

“We also want to see a better life for those with dementia - the Longitude Prize on Dementia will inspire innovators from diverse disciplines towards this goal with a new generation of breakthrough assistive technologies.”

Full details of the Longitude Prize on Dementia will be announced in September 2022 when the prize launches and entry period opens.

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