UK innovators win grants in global healthy ageing competition

Three pensioners travelling together

Eleven UK-based researchers will share more than £500,000 in funding as some of the first winners in a competition run in the UK by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

The Healthy Ageing Catalysts Awards are designed to harness the most innovative, cutting edge and blue-sky ideas of researchers, the businesses they work with, and others to create practical, scalable products and services that support us as we age.

Part of the National Academy of Medicine healthy longevity global competition, winners are also eligible for the later stages of that, including accelerator awards of up to $0.5 million and a $5 million grand prize.

Driving, art and wearable tech

This year’s UK winners include:

  • research into the best ways of raising standards in care homes, particularly in developing countries where they are rapidly replacing in-family care
  • projects that will create better support and interaction for people with dementia, and their carers, focusing on physical activity, training and support for the work of artists who create tailored experiences
  • wearable technology – in sock form – that will better identify the early signs of sarcopenia, a muscle-wasting condition common in older people
  • a team comprised of healthcare practitioners, architects, designers, building users and academics (with expertise in architecture, health, gerontology, computer science and software engineering) to co-design seven tech-enabled prototype houses, built around the needs of older people, as part of a new, larger housing development
  • new, machine learning analytics, that will monitor the key diabetes markers (blood glucose, insulin, carbohydrates), physical activity measures and cognitive assessment to provide individuals with better information about their own health and support service planning and provision for health, social and community care
  • in-car monitoring technology to more accurately assess where mild cognitive impairment among older drivers might affect safety, rather than relying wholly on drivers self-reporting issues. This could help detect those at most risk and develop interventions to introduce graduated driving licenses that better support an evolving condition.

full list of the global winners, including those in the UK, was announced in the US this week.

Bringing imagination to an ageing society

UK Research and Innovation challenge director, George McGinnis, said:

One in 12 people in the UK today is over 75. By 2040, it will be one in seven. We’re all living longer and a third of children born now are expected to live to 100. We should be able to enjoy those extra years of life yet currently, at 65, we can expect to live just half of the remainder of our lives without disability.

The Healthy Ageing Catalyst Award is an opportunity for researchers, particularly those with an entrepreneurial spirit, to develop and deliver innovative solutions to help us all to stay active and productive in our later lives. This year’s winners include imaginative approaches to both the physical and social aspects of ageing and to issues that affect wider society.

Further information

The Catalyst Awards will provide approximately 60 grants over the next three years for academics based at UK research organisations to explore new, innovative, ideas with the potential to transform the physical, mental or social well-being of people across the world as they age.

In addition to a grant of up to £50,000 per project, award holders will benefit from a structured, 9-month part-time programme of support starting in November 2020 that will accelerate ideas and work with researchers to maximise the reach and impact of their work.

Researchers interested in applying for the next round can learn more about the Healthy Ageing Catalyst Awards through the Research Impact series of events taking place from October 2020. Formal applications open in January 2021 and will be expected to fit with the priority areas of the ISCF Healthy Ageing Challenge. These include physical activity; maintaining health at work; age-friendly homes; supporting social connections; better nutrition and finance products for older people.

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