Launched by Essex County Council, the Challenge Dementia prize was a national search for products, services and technologies that could help people living with dementia to remain connected to the people and places around them.
Challenge prizes are a tool to spur on and accelerate innovation and that is exactly what the Challenge Dementia prize achieved. Our challenge, shaped by people living with dementia and those that work closely with them, was our call to action.
Launched in January, over 70 ideas were submitted from organisations, groups and individuals. From that a panel of judges selected nine finalists. Our nine, supported by a small micro grant and access to a range of experts including techUK, Alzheimer’s Society, PA Consulting and the University of Essex worked to further test and develop their ideas.
The support I received from my techUK mentor, Andrew Cleminson proved to be invaluable. Challenge Dementia finalist.
Matching startup entrepreneurs with the right mentor comes with all sorts of challenges. You can't just package people up and hope for the best. It requires skill, insight and something else; creativity. TechUK hit all the right buttons when they teamed us up with our mentor: Rajal Patni, CFO of Lavanya Plus, a company focused on connecting care with communities with their Wellness Management for Life healthtech platform. Rajal's style and approach as a mentor had all the right ingredients; she challenged me as critical friend, enabled me through her practical advice and guidance and, above all, empowered me by believing in Remarkable Lives. This was a very positive experience, and our relationship with Lavanya Plus will hopefully continue to grow beyond the Challenge Dementia Prize.
Our advice to them was to hold their ideas lightly and be willing to adapt and iterate based on the feedback they heard from those living with dementia. And this is exactly what they did. The finalists were as diverse as the ideas that they brought with them – ranging from large established tech firms and academics to smaller social enterprises and one individual just starting secondary school (If there was any concern about future ingenuity and talent in the UK, the youngest finalist at just 11 years old was Arnav Sharma with Vivify Me, an app for touch-screens that improves cognitive, fine motor skills for people in the early stages of dementia). What united them all was a shared determination to make a positive impact and personal experiences to draw from.
And so to the winner. A panel of expert judges selected a winner to receive a £100,000 prize to further their idea. Innovative, novel and scalable were just some of the words used to describe the winners – The Wayback. – a virtual reality film series that completely surrounds the person in familiar sights and sounds from the past. This means, that rather than relying on one or two triggers, such as a piece of music or a photograph, as most reminiscence work does, they are able to place literally hundreds of potential memory triggers in every scene, enabling people to use the reality of the past to have meaningful conversations in the present. The Waybacks ambition is to share these films with as many people as possible helping them to remain connected to the people around them and maintain their identity. Such was the quality of the finalists, a Highly Commended prize was created for HowDoI? which creates bespoke video instructions which are triggered to help with everyday tasks such as making a cup of tea. Whilst there could only be one winner, the hope is that the investment provided by the challenge prize process will mean that all nine finalists will continue with their quest to develop solutions that will work now and for future generations, improving the lives of everyone living with dementia.
So what have we learnt over the past year of working on Challenge Dementia:
- People have been so very generous with their time and experiences – wanting to get involved at all stages of the process to make it the best it can be. Thank you to everyone;
- The finalists projects are as good as they are because they have seized the opportunity to get out and talk to people and they have all held onto their ideas lightly – adapting the idea time and time again to respond to user feedback; and
- Shining a light on an issue from a different angle can be powerful. For example, The Wayback team are a group of passionate filmmakers, creatives and producers. The Challenge Dementia Prize has created a real opportunity to engage with people we wouldn’t otherwise reach out to as a County Council. Encouraging them to think about how people can live well with dementia and acting as a catalyst to bring ideas to life.
We are excited to see how all nine finalists go from strength to strength.
To find out more about the Challenge Dementia Prize visit: https://challenge-prizes.essex.gov.uk/ To find out more about The Wayback visit - http://thewaybackvr.com/ To find out more about HowDoI? vist - http://wearehowdoi.com/whoweare/