£4m prize offers hope to people with dementia to stay independent

Woman making a cup of tea, sign in background says Remember! Switch the hob rings off.

Innovate UK, Alzheimer’s Society and Challenge Works launch Longitude Prize on Dementia rewarding technologies that help people with the life-changing disease.

Innovate UK, Alzheimer’s Society and Challenge Works are today (26 September 2022) launching a new £4.34 million Longitude Prize on Dementia.

It is calling for innovators around the world to use artificial intelligence to create breakthrough technologies that learn from a person living with dementia.

The technologies should adapt and compensate for their condition as it progresses, and help people living with the disease maintain their independence and lead a fulfilling life doing things they enjoy.

54% want new technology

A new survey is released today of people with close family and friends living with dementia. 54% said that they would be less concerned about their relative’s safety if they had technology to help them live independently.

Six in 10 people believe that technology will become even more important in the future for managing dementia.

A global challenge

There are 50 million people living with dementia globally, with around 900,000 in the UK, and it is set to rise dramatically.

The condition devastates lives, causing people to lose memories, relationships and their identity, and could affect as many as 153 million by 2050.

Although there is currently no cure for dementia, people with the condition can live well for years.

Hospital admissions have been proven to increase the rate of decline, but the hope is that assistive technology can help people stay safe and independent in their home for longer.

A survey by Alzheimer’s Society (PDF, 2.3MB) revealed 85% of people said they would want to stay at home for as long as possible if diagnosed with dementia.

Untapped possibilities

From today, global innovators are invited to develop technologies that learn about the routines of people living with early-stage dementia. These technologies can employ artificial intelligence and machine learning to adapt as the condition progresses, bridging the cognitive gaps that develop with the disease.

There are huge possibilities for dementia which are currently largely untapped.

The survey of people with friends and family living with the disease reported that loved ones benefitted from existing technology including:

  • monitoring devices (20%)
  • GPS tracking devices (16%)
  • phone reminders (14%).

However, the survey also revealed that over a quarter of people said their relatives didn’t use technology at all (26%).

£1 million first prize

Delivered by challenge prize experts, Challenge Works, the £4.34 million Longitude Prize on Dementia will award £3.34 million in seed funding and grants to the most promising innovators. In addition a £1 million prize awarded to the winner in early 2026.

Wider support has also been funded to provide innovators with crucial insight and expertise including:

  • access to data
  • collaborations with people living with dementia
  • expert advice on product design and business aspects of the innovation.

The prize has received generous support from UK donors The Hunter Foundation, CareTech Foundation and Heather Corrie, as well as the Medical Research Council.

Find out more and enter the Longitude Prize on Dementia. Entries close on 26 January 2023.

Supporting global innovators

George MacGinnis, Challenge Director for Healthy Ageing, Innovate UK said:

This global prize is calling on world-class innovators to transform the lives of people living with dementia.

Innovate UK, in our role as the UK’s innovation agency, is pleased to be supporting global innovators to create breakthrough products and services that can support independent living for people with the early stages of dementia, help them to live enjoyable and fulfilling lives, and provide their families with invaluable reassurance.

Harnessing cutting-edge technology

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.

Living independently

Peter Harris, 58, is a former oil rig worker, from Cleethorpes, who has lived with vascular dementia for five years. He says:

I’d forget to take my daily medication if it wasn’t for my smart speaker alerts, and I’d leave the oven on after cooking if one of my sons hadn’t programmed the speaker to remind me. In my old flat, I had a hob that I would leave on and once a tea towel caught on fire, but luckily I was able to get it in the sink.

Thankfully there was no damage done but of course my children were really worried, and one of my sons decided to get me the smart speaker so it wouldn’t happen again. Now both my sons and my daughter have peace of mind.

The number one priority for me is to keep safe and happy at home. I don’t want to give up my independence and I am excited by any technology that could help me stay at home for longer. I’m grateful my son can help me, but I know not everyone has that support.

My dementia means I struggle to follow instructions, and often don’t even know where to start, so it’s important that technology is designed with people like me in mind.

Further information

About the Longitude Prize on Dementia

The Longitude Prize on Dementia is a £4.34 million prize to drive the creation of personalised, technology-based tools that are co-created with people living with the early stages of dementia. It aims to, help them live independent, more fulfilled lives and be able to do the things they enjoy.

£3.34 million will be awarded in seed funding and development grants to the most promising solutions, with a £1 million first prize to be awarded in 2026. In addition, wider support has been funded to provide innovators with crucial insight and expertise, facilitating what they need to bring their ideas to life.

Dementia is a progressive condition and there is no cure, but people can live well for years. As hospitalisations can increase the rate of decline, the hope is that assistive technology can help people stay safe and independent in their home for longer.

The winning solution will use the latest advances in technology, artificial intelligence and machine learning in combination with user data and testing to provide personalised support for people living with dementia.

The Longitude Prize on Dementia is funded by the UK’s Alzheimer’s Society and Innovate UK and delivered by Challenge Works. Funding and delivery of the Longitude Prize on Dementia is provided by:

  • Alzheimer’s Society, the UK’s leading dementia charity. It is a vital source of support and a powerful force for change for everyone affected by dementia
  • Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, helping UK businesses to grow through the development and commercialisation of new products, processes and services, supported by an outstanding innovation ecosystem that is agile, inclusive and easy to navigate
  • generous support from three UK donors: The Hunter Foundation, CareTech Foundation and Heather Corrie
  • funding from the Medical Research Council (MRC). MRC funds research at the forefront of science to prevent illness, develop therapies and improve human health
  • Challenge Works (the new name for Nesta Challenges), a global authority on the design and delivery of challenge prizes to unlock technological solutions focused on social good.

Find out how to enter the Longitude Prize on Dementia.

Top image:  Credit: Alzheimer’s Society

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