The Next Big Thing

December is a month to take stock and give some thought to the year ahead.

As regular readers will know, I run Creative Skills for Life (CSL) a campaigning social venture that works with like-minded organisations; notably Innovate UK, the government's innovation agency.

For CSL, 2015 has been a year of discovery.

Thanks primarily to the efforts of Professor Andrew Hugill and his team at Bath Spa University, CSL has progressed in our mission to develop a multidisciplinary co-creation platform, that will enable people living with chronic conditions to explore their creative potential as a means of alleviating stress and anxiety, whilst scientifically demonstrating that creativity is beneficial for health and wellbeing. I'm looking forward to sharing further details next year.

In other news, we kicked off 2015 with a series of roadshows promoting Innovate UK's Long Term Care Revolution National Challenge. Supported by NatWest/RBS and the European Commission, the events captured the imagination of private, public and third sector stakeholders alike. We were hoping to attract some exciting high risk concepts from far sighted entrepreneurs and we were not disappointed. Bear with me and I will introduce you to the winners below.

When it comes to trend spotting, as an Innovate UK monitoring officer I get to engage with all sorts of juicy cutting edge projects involving technologies with great potential. But no doubt about it, if 2013/14 was all about apps, 2015 has been the year of the sensor with an explosion of new location based services.

An Internet of Empowered People

How will this trend play out in 2016? Despite ongoing concerns relating to security and data ownership, the smart money is on the Internet of Things (IoT) facilitating myriad opportunities to leverage sensors as a means of empowering individuals; especially at home.

Which brings me back to the LTC Revolution which aims to radically rethink current models of long-term care and dependency – technological, social and financial – and to eventually replace what exists with a dynamic market for sustainable and affordable solutions, ensuring that, when it is no longer possible to live independently, or when high levels of nursing care and support are required, people can make the transition to more dependent lifestyles on their own terms.

The smart money is on the IoT making it possible to shift care and health from hospitals to homes and communities.

The challenge and opportunity is to facilitate what I call Agile Ageing™, where users take control of interoperable digital environments in accordance with their evolving needs and aspirations.

So what can we expect from these new technologically enabled homes? Praminda Caleb-Solly, Associate Professor at Bristol Robotics Laboratory envisages a paradigm shift pertaining to social understanding and interaction with assistive robotics.

Praminda, who participated in the LTCR 'sandpit' innovation workshop in 2013 – is principal investigator on CHIRON (Care at Home using Intelligent Robotic Omni-functional Nodes), which – as a winner of the National Challenge – will receive over £2 million to develop an intelligent modular robotic systems.

According to, Professor Nigel Harris of lead project partner Designability, "Chiron could help with personal hygiene tasks, get you ready for the day and even help prepare your favourite meal in the kitchen, which for some people could mean that their carer would then have more time to spend providing valuable social companionship."

The other winner of the LTCR is internationally renowned scientist, inventor and broadcaster, Professor Heinz Wolff, who has been awarded £1 million to develop his Give & Take Care (GAT) project, which aims to redefine the challenge of how affordable care can be provided. Based on the idea of 'mutual exchange', GAT is effectively a pension scheme where the contributions and returns are made in time rather than money, with participants supporting or caring for an older person in their community.

So at 87, Professor Wolff is doing more than talking about a revolution. He aims to inspire a movement that will build stronger communities, spur the development of new assisted living devices and provide a platform for new research.

Looking to a future where we shift our perspective on the ageing population from a liability to a growing market segment with unmet needs and aspirations, combined with significant disposable income, the 'Silver Economy' represents a huge unrealised opportunity for economic growth and social development.

With very best wishes for an awesome New Year!

Image used with permission.