New projects are providing capital and support to Longevity start-ups as investors and governments start to realise the sector’s importance.
36 partners, 14 European countries and €21m to spend between them… The SHAPES project (Smart and Healthy Ageing through People Engaging in supportive Systems) aims to explore interactions between people, their environments and technology to deliver advanced community living projects which help people to continue living in their own homes for longer.
Led by the Assisted Living and Learning Institute (ALL) at Maynooth University in Ireland, the project addresses deficiencies in the way independent living products are produced and marketed.
“As of now, we have many different technologies available to older individuals and people with disabilities,” said Malcolm “Mac” MacLachlan, Professor of Psychology and Social Inclusion at ALL. “Someone might have a hearing aid, a wheelchair, home sensors and perhaps a ‘smart’ pillbox – but they don’t necessarily all work together. In collaboration with our European colleagues, we aim to bring assistive technologies and connected health together .”
We addressed the Agetech interoperability question recently when we talked with Dr Lorraine Morley, lead of AgeTech Accelerator UK at Allia about the increased interest from investors in the AgeTech field.
Among the organisations taking part is the Agile Ageing Alliance (AAA), which will be focusing on age friendliness; drawing on WHO health and housing guidelines together with research co-authored by MacLachlan, it will investigate what constitutes an optimum age friendly home.
In a press release AAA stated: “With over 70% of European housing stock not fit for purpose and 80% of the homes that people will be occupying in 2050 already built, our workstream will prioritize retrofit environments as settings to test novel solutions designed to help people remain independent, productive, active and socially connected for longer.”
The work will tap into AAA’s ongoing Neighbourhoods of the Future research looking at new housing and, specifically, construction. It draws on their recent report ‘Better Homes for an Aging Population ’ which details how we can create more appropriate homes for our older future selves.
We recently spoke with Dominic Endicott of 4Gen about the future of housing. 4Gen takes its name from an anticipation of rising costs in housing and social care causing families in the US & UK to increasingly consider “multi-generational living,” — cohabiting or living together in close neighbourhoods across four generations.
Support from programmes such as Horizon 2020  is crucial to the prospects of such proposals. With more than €80bn worth of funding over seven years, €5.5bn of which has gone to the UK, it plays an important role in giving start ups the support they need to grow.
Even so, the environment is challenging. According to NESTA, “there needs to be more space created to take risks and to build evidence of the case for novel solutions. This requires work between private, public and third sectors to create pilots and share the evidence and data created.”
But there are moves in the right direction; 4Gen Ventures is due to start investing early in 2020 and aims to raise between £50m and £100m . Interest in Agetech is growing from public bodies and investors.
The arrival of Brexit could also create opportunities. Speaking to Longevity.Technology, Professor Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University, said that Brexit could create an opportunity for a more favourable regulatory climate which would make the UK even more attractive to the Longevity research sector.
“There is one big potential benefit that could really affect things, which would be the ability for the UK to form its own regulator. Because some of this is going to require accelerated approvals – long-term, real-world evidence gathering in the marketplace,” he said .