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Ulster University has been named a semi-finalist in the Longitude Prize on Dementia for its AI model that helps detect, prevent, and monitor agitation in people living with dementia. The university has been awarded one of 24 Discovery Award grants, worth £80k, as part of the £4m Longitude Prize on Dementia.

A total of £1.9m has been awarded to 24 pioneering teams of developers, researchers and innovators from across the globe in the international challenge competition funded by Alzheimer’s Society and Innovate UK and designed and delivered by Challenge Works. The team will now work alongside people living with dementia and their carers to ensure technologies are intuitive, easy-to-use and able to adapt to their changing needs.

In collaboration with the Northern Health and Social Care Trust in Northern Ireland, the Public Health Agency and Age NI, CLEAR-AI is an intelligent platform that will be co-designed by people living with dementia and their carers, enables to help better understand behaviour through from diagnosis to post-diagnosis support. It aims to empower people living with Dementia, and to help them maintain independence in their daily lives, decisions, social interactions, and activities. Team members include: Professor Joan Condell, Professor Gerry Leavey and Dr Ruth Price from Ulster University, Soo-Hun from the Public Health Agency, Siobhan Casey from Age NI and Dr Frances Duffy from the Northern Health and Social Care Trust.

Professor Joan Condell, Ulster University said:

“The Human Centred Computing team at the Intelligent Systems Research Centre in Ulster are very excited to be one of 23 Discovery Awardees of the Longitude Prize on Dementia.  We will focus on CLEAR-AI - our integration of high TRL-technologies inside a personalised AI model to detect, prevent and monitor agitation in people living with dementia.  We will co-create with those living with dementia, both carers and those being cared for.  This is an exciting collaboration with the Northern Health and Social Care Trust in Northern Ireland and Age NI, helping to understand behaviour through CLEAR-AI, through from diagnosis to post-diagnosis support, helping people living with dementia live independent, in their own homes, more fulfilled lives doing what they enjoy.”

Kate Lee, CEO, Alzheimer’s Society, said:

“It’s vital people with dementia are able to live independently, doing things that bring them fulfilment, for as long as possible. And that’s exactly what tech innovation can provide.  Today’s Discovery Award winners all have the capacity to develop cutting-edge tools that bring hope to the here and now, making a tangible difference to people’s lives. New drugs have been discovered which slow the progression of early Alzheimer’s disease, but there’s still more to do.  Alzheimer’s Society remains committed to innovative projects like the Longitude Prize so that together we can improve the lives of people living with dementia and their families.”

Indro Mukerjee, CEO, Innovate UK said:

“By addressing dementia the Longitude Prize tackles a global health crisis. Worldwide, around 50 million people have dementia and there are nearly 10 million new cases every year. Innovate UK is pleased to support this initiative along with the other vital work we are doing in this area. The UK is a global leader in innovation for healthy ageing and this prize will incentivise new technologies. This will help people with dementia, their families and their carers, to make living with the condition easier”.

The Longitude Prize on Dementia is driving the development of personalised, technology-based tools that are co-created with people living with the early stages of dementia, helping them live independent, more fulfilled lives and enable them to do the things they enjoy. The competition itself has also been co-designed with people living with dementia. Judges were advised in their decision making by the prizes Lived Experience Advisory Panel (LEAP).

Trevor Salomon, whose wife Yvonne was diagnosed with young-onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2013, is Chair of the Longitude Prize on Dementia’s Lived Experience Advisory Panel. The group – which includes people living with dementia, carers and former carers – has steered the design of the prize, as well as the judging and assessment processes.

Trevor said:

“Before her diagnosis, my wife astonished everyone with her ability to do anything she set her mind to. She was an amazing cook, gardener, and there was nothing she couldn’t make or repair on her sewing machine.

“If we could access technologies that help extend her independence and her enjoyment of those pastimes, it would be so worthwhile. So I’m really impressed by the innovative thinking and creativity of the Discovery Award winners. Advances in AI could lead to new technologies that would be transformative for people like my wife – but they need to be easy to use, intuitive and adapt to the unique needs of each person. Technologies shouldn’t be developed in a bubble; they need to be designed and tested by the people who will ultimately benefit from them."

In 2024, five finalists will progress with additional £1.5m in funding to build real-world prototypes. In total, more than £3 million will be awarded in seed funding and development grants with a £1 million first prize to be awarded in 2026.