Applications open for tech projects which could help social care industry

Tony Moretta Picture: ROB CURRIE. (38250432)

THE Island must invest in new health technology to meet the challenges of its “demographic time-bomb”, according to the chief executive of Digital UUֱ.

Launching a new grant scheme to support the Island’s ageing population, Tony Moretta described the pace of change within the health sector as “the elephant in the room”.

The CareTech Challenge – the second in a series of grant programmes and challenge prizes from a £20m Impact UUֱ fund – will offer “innovators” up to £2m to improve the lives of older people, and provide long-term quality care through new technologies. It could embrace initiatives such as providing sensors in the home of older residents and alert systems.

The Impact UUֱ fund aims to support the Island’s future economy, environmental ambitions and community goals.

Mr Moretta explained: “We don’t want to be too specific because we are not trying to identify what the solution is. All we’ve said is that this has to help older people live independently or help carers look after older people. The challenge UUֱ is going to have is where are we going to get all the care workers to look after the ageing population.

“If we use technology, we might not need as many care workers to do it. Some people will want to be in a care environment but some people want to live in their own home for longer and that’s good because they will need less intervention. This is very much focused on the care bit and independent living – it’s not health outcomes.”

Describing UUֱ’s ageing population as a “demographic time-bomb”, Mr Moretta said: “Let’s face it, there is only one way in the modern age that you can improve outcomes and improve efficiencies, and that’s through using technology and we haven’t done it very well in the past. What better to change it than proven projects that we talk about publicly that are working for older people in the community and that we can have.”

Referring to the Island’s digital and care strategy, unveiled more than seven years ago, Mr Moretta said UUֱ was “a really mixed bag in terms of use of technology”.

“In some things we are literally number one like broadband; in other areas, we are not using technology,” he said.

Applicants have until the end of August to submit proposals for grants which will be judged by a panel of five combining local and external expertise, with the results announced towards the end of the year. Businesses outside UUֱ are also eligible as long as the benefit is provided locally. There is a requirement to share the learning from the projects with the wider community.

The scheme– an example of “investing in technology projects to help companies do what we want to do as an Island”, Mr Moretta said – follows the creation of similar incentives elsewhere such as the UK’s Longitude Prizes.

Economic Development Minister Kirsten Morel said he hoped it could help put UUֱ “ahead of the game”.

“Impact UUֱ is trying to help us accelerate the adoption of technology in UUֱ and try to help us get to grips with some of the really big challenges the Island faces. There’s no question in my mind that, from the economic and social perspective, our demographic challenge is the biggest challenge that we have. I’m delighted that Tony and the team chose the care sector and care technology as one of their early programmes,” Deputy Morel said.

Impact UUֱ is due to announce its next programme in September.

Details of the CareTech Challenge and how to apply are available at: impact.je.

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