Simon Lord, Head of Innovation, Alzheimer’s Society and Rob McAfee, Performance Director, Adults Division (Midlands), CareTech Ltd
It’s been an incredibly exciting time in dementia research; after 20 years without any new Alzheimer’s drugs in the UK, there are now two potential new drugs in just twelve months. This breakthrough could mark the beginning of the end of Alzheimer’s disease.
The results suggest that this treatment – called Donanemab – has the potential to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, giving people more time to engage in everyday activities and tasks and maintain their independence for longer.
The news has brought hope for the future, but there is still much to be done. While searching for treatments, we must also keep momentum in exploring ways to provide help to those currently living with dementia, right here and now. Life with dementia can come with challenges. Alongside care and support for families, we believe innovation can help people to live well with dementia by taking on these challenges together.
That’s why we invest in innovative products, designed to help people living with dementia. In 2022, Alzheimer’s Society launched the Longitude Prize on Dementia in partnership with Innovate UK and Challenge Works. Care Tech Foundation, one of the UK’s leading specialist social care and education providers, helps fund the prize.
The Longitude Prize on Dementia is a £4 million prize to drive the creation of personalised, technology-based tools that are co-created with people who are living with the early stages of dementia.
Its aim is to help them live independent, more fulfilled lives and to be able to do the things they enjoy.
The Longitude Prize has so far awarded nearly £2m to 24 semi-finalists to develop tools aimed at aiding people living with dementia. Among the innovations are an app that facilitates communication, high-tech facial recognition glasses to identify familiar faces, and an augmented reality ‘Wizard of Oz’-inspired ‘Yellow Brick Road’ map designed to help individuals navigate their surroundings safely. These ground-breaking developments hold great promise in enhancing the lives of those affected by dementia.
The competition itself has been co-designed with people living with dementia. Judges were advised in their decision making by the prize’s Lived Experience Advisory Panel (LEAP). Trevor Salomon, whose wife Yvonne was diagnosed with young-onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2013, is the panel’s Chair. 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.
Existing products for people living with dementia often focus on safeguarding, monitoring, and risk-mitigation. These can be very useful, but there are currently very few solutions available that enable and empower people living with dementia to keep doing the things that are important to them and bring them joy. Moreover, with the progressive nature of dementia, one of the key focuses of the prize is to ensure that the solutions that are awarded funding are able to adapt to a person’s condition over time, providing support that grows as a person’s abilities to live independently decline.
The shortlisted innovators, whose ideas were assessed by a panel of people living with dementia as well as expert judges are able to test their ideas in a real-world environment and ensure that they fully take in to account the particular needs of those requiring specialist social care support, through access to CareTech’s social care experts. This ground-breaking collaboration marks the first of its kind in this space.
The overall Longitude Prize on Dementia winner will be announced in 2026, receiving a £1 million prize. This collaboration ensures that every idea adds value to the field of dementia research. The combined efforts of these innovative minds, together with the unique support of CareTech Foundation, are poised to make a meaningful impact on the dementia space.
Challenge prizes like Longitude open up problem-solving to a wider and more diverse pool of people, such as small businesses, start-ups, and entrepreneurs, allowing for more flexibility and bold new ideas.
CareTech, the Foundation and Alzheimer’s Society are dedicated to ensuring that every aspect of our work is guided by the meaningful involvement of people with lived experience of dementia. We value the uniqueness and relevance of each individual’s experience and recognise the significance of engaging a diverse range of perspectives from those who face the realities of dementia daily. Through sharing their knowledge, skills, experiences, opinions, and ideas, people with lived experience of dementia play a pivotal role in helping us make better decisions, create a more significant impact, and become a stronger force for positive change.
It’s crucial that people living with dementia can live independently, doing things that bring them fulfilment, for as long as possible. That is exactly what tech innovation can provide. We can’t wait to see how these products develop during the course of the Longitude Prize, and the benefits they’ll bring to people living with dementia. In CareTech’s care services, the staff supporting these individuals will be given a voice and platform to share their knowledge.
Together, we are paving the way towards a better, brighter future for dementia. This is an exciting time for us to revolutionise the way dementia is treated.