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£4m tech prize offers new hope to people living with dementia in Wales

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A Welsh resident welcomes a new multi-million-pound competition to find cutting-edge technology that supports people with early-stage dementia to live independently at home for longer.

The Longitude Prize on Dementia is a £4.34 million prize fund from Alzheimer’s Society, Innovate UK and Challenge Works. It is calling 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 helping them maintain their independence and lead a fulfilling life doing things they enjoy.

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Andrea Denham-Elliot, 67, a transgender woman who lives in Mid Wales with her partner Ella, was diagnosed with dementia six years after she transitioned 20 years ago.

She says: “I have worked as a carer, so I am all too aware of the challenges people living with dementia face. The most important thing is that most technology is not user friendly for people living with dementia. They cannot access the technology easily as not everyone with dementia is in the same state.”

“There are some very clever people out there. Getting into technology with passwords and the like can be very frustrating for people living with dementia. If someone can find something that takes on board the struggles of people with dementia, that is accessible for us, that would be really good and make a big difference.”

There are 900,000 living with dementia in the UK, and an estimated  50,000 are living with the condition in Wales. A survey by Alzheimer’s Society revealed 85% of people said they would want to stay at home for as long as possible if diagnosed with dementia.1

Cheryl James – Area Manager at Alzheimer’s Society Cymru, 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. 

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“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. 

“Many people affected by dementia 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.”

Delivered by challenge prize experts, Challenge Works, the £4.34m 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.

In addition, wider support has been funded to provide innovators with crucial insight and expertise – such as access to data, collaborations with people living with dementia and advice on product design.

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.”

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

To find out more and enter the Longitude Prize on Dementia, go to dementia.longitudeprize.org Entries close on 26 January 2023.

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