Penicillin, radar, synthetic fibre and the aerosol can: these are just four of many life changing inventions that were born from fighting the Second World War, and a reminder that, as a species, we’re often at our most resourceful when our backs are against the wall.
Although not a human conflict, the disruptive impact of Covid-19 on society has many of the characteristics of a war, and I’m in no doubt that by the end of the crisis innovation in certain fields will have accelerated rapidly due to need.
Government is certainty doing its part, and has launched Techforce19, a £500,000 fund to boost digital solutions to support those self-isolating due to the coronavirus, with up to £25,000 available to successful applicants.
The fund was established the same day as Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement that where possible UK citizens should remain in their homes for three weeks – with the over 70s and vulnerable already being asked to isolate for up to three months.
Techforce19 requests that innovators and inventors create, adapt or develop technology that tackle a range of challenges, including:
- Remotely delivering social care through matching qualified carers to those in need
- The optimisation of volunteer time by recruiting, training and coordinating non-clinical workers
- Improving the delivery of mental health support services
- Any other digital solutions that can ease the pressure on services and make more of resource
Having worked in independent living technology development for a number of years, I understand the scale of the challenge facing all levels of government, but in particular local authorities and adult care providers.
At the present time there are around eight million people over the age of 70 in the UK. When you combine this figure with the further millions also forced to isolate due to underlying health conditions, it is a seemingly impossible situation to manage.
But technology can and has to play a big role, and there are solutions already out there that can be either scaled up or reassigned to ease the burden in the ways listed above.
A number of place tech suppliers, including my employer Secure Meters, have developed technologies designed to assist with tackling the adult social care funding gap, caused by a relative lack of financial and human resources to care for an increasingly aging population.
A number of large local authorities have also used the digital switchover to trial and install remote monitoring solutions that keep the elderly better connected to care providers and love ones, whilst also using non-wearable technology to alert in real time incidents such as falls, ill-health or reduced mobility.
In light of the coronavirus, care providers must be frustrated that they are not a year or two further down this road, as remote monitoring would be invaluable at the present time – but who could have seen this coming?
But I believe that necessity is the mother of invention, and this crisis could be the catalyst for both technology developers such as ourselves, as well as care providers, to accelerate our efforts.
As in wartime, it’s time for us all to work together and ask ‘how can we make a difference?’, and I hope other digital solutions providers (including our competitors), consider applying for Techforce19 funding to fast-track these vital new products.