Mirthy wins runner up in £1m tech to Connect Challenge
The Tech to Connect Challenge was launched in the summer of 2019, in order to develop early-stage ideas for technology that enable more or better interactions between people. The challenge looked for the most innovative ideas, helping them turn these ideas into prototypes that have the potential for real change.
An expert Judging Panel selected ten finalists from 130 applications. The £1m prize consisted of £500,000 worth of business and programme support and £500,000 in grant funding and cash prizes, which was split between the ten finalists. The challenge was supported by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
Mirthy, the brainchild of Alex Ramamurthy (also Chairman of Care Innovation Hub), was one of the ten finalists selected receiving a £25,000 grant, and on the 19th March was named Runner Up of the Challenge receiving a £75,000 cash prize.
The team at Mirthy is building an activities platform to enable older people to stay active, independent, and improve their ability to interact with others. Mirthy connect Speakers, typically retired individuals, into retirement developments and care homes for interesting talks, to mix residents with those looking for social interactions in the wider community.
Mirthy believes in turning the 35,000 retirement developments and care homes in the UK into activity hubs for older people, utilising existing spare resources such as communal lounges, to efficiently and effectively tackle social isolation.
Ramamurthy, Co-Founder and CEO at Mirthy, said: “We’re thrilled to have won Runner Up in the Tech to Connect Challenge and the £75,000 prize will allow us to invest in technology and reach more people.
However the coronavirus has thrown a real spanner in the works for us all, and we have been working tirelessly to find a suitable response for our beneficiaries and the business model.
Our view is that the UK will peak soon and we will be back to business as usual before the year is out. Our initial model will be even more applicable given the coming months of social distancing and the effect on older people’s feeling of loneliness and social isolation.
Our current model is to connect older adult speakers into communal lounges within retirement developments, mixing residents with others from the local community, to deliver entertaining talks followed by social interaction amongst attendees.
What we have done in the interim is come up with a new model to introduce video recordings of our speakers directly into older people’s homes and resident’s rooms using simple every day technology. We are exploring ways to encourage social interaction after talks via webinar tools, such as a live Q&A from the speaker.
The Mirthy team are a resilient and innovative bunch and we will continue to iterate our model and respond to market conditions in a way that best serves our beneficiaries, our mission, and the viability of our enterprise.
We believe this new model will be more scalable and will positively impact more older people across the country, and we are incredibly excited (and anxious) to test it out.”
McCarthy and Stone, Mirthy’s lead partner, had commenced a pilot earlier in the year. Laura Warwick, Head of Isolation Support at McCarthy & Stone, commented: “As Mirthy's lead partner, we are thrilled with their Runner Up award in the Tech to Connect Challenge. In February we commenced a pilot with Mirthy to deliver leisure and enrichment activities into our development communities. Given the current coronavirus situation, the vast majority of our 20,000 residents are in self-isolation meaning ideas that tackle loneliness and social isolation are needed now more than ever. We are excited to work with Mirthy and trial this new model which will bring pre-recorded talks to our residents in their own homes via webinar technology, and we look forward to a long-term partnership.”