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£12.5m collaboration to help elderly stay healthy and independent

11 Jun 2021

With support from Edinburgh Innovations, Blackwood Homes and Care has won a major funding award from UK Research and Innovation for a collaboration with the University of Edinburgh and industry partners, as part of the ISCF Healthy Ageing Challenge to help older people live at home for longer and with greater independence.

The £12.5 million Blackwood Neighbourhoods for Independent Living project will combine age-friendly homes with innovative technology, products and services to support healthy, independent living and reduce social isolation. Funding of £6 million has been secured from UK Research and Innovation with matched funding from project partners.

New and retrofit homes across three sites in Dundee, Glasgow and Buckie will benefit from innovations including home devices connected via the Internet of Things to provide health and wellbeing data through an app, and a ‘virtual neighbourhood’ online community enabling residents to gamify their fitness goals and share progress with friends and family.

Research role

The University of Edinburgh will work with residents to co-design a ‘value exchange model’ allowing them to contribute to their communities by sharing and trading skills and expertise.

The University will also build on a previous collaboration with Blackwood, the Smart Meter for Independent Living (SMILE) project, using artificial intelligence to monitor energy use to identify changes in dweller behaviour that could be a cause for concern, allowing for rapid intervention if required.

We are looking forward to working with Blackwood on this project. We will bring our service design and management expertise to lead both the co-design work with the elderly residents in all three localities and the stakeholder engagement with the key public services involved.
Public service design in a virtual space, as the pandemic requires, is an innovative and exciting venture and we believe it will not only benefit Blackwood residents but also offer key lessons for the future as we emerge from the pandemic.

Stephen Osborne, Professor of International Public Management at the University of Edinburgh Business School, and Principal Investigator for the project.

Fanchea Kelly, Chief Executive at Blackwood, said the funding unlocks an exciting future where the company can support more older people and people with disabilities to live their life to the full.

What we are proposing at our three neighbourhoods will effectively create communities of the future, providing what we hope is a blueprint for great places to be as people grow older.
We want Scotland to be the best place to grow older and we believe the best way to do that is to listen to residents and design solutions with expert partners to respond to what they want.
With the UKRI funding, we’ll be able to work with our partners on further predictive tools, for example, building on our existing Smart Metering project (SMILE) where people can use their data to flag any concerning changes in patterns and prevent further vulnerability.

Fanchea Kelly, Chief Executive, Blackwood.

EI support for funding

Edinburgh Innovations worked closely with Blackwood and partners to secure the ISCF funding. In addition to Blackwood, industry partners involved in the project are: Cisco International, Censis, Canon Medical Research, MyDex Data Services, Carebuilder UK, Enterprise Rent-a-Car and architects Lewis & Hickey.

This funding unlocks the potential for wide-reaching benefits, as our ageing population seeks to live healthy and rewarding lives.
Combining a range of University expertise with Blackwood Homes’ innovative approach to healthy ageing, we will create a suite of novel solutions to improve quality of life for older people, allowing them to enjoy their later lives in better health, in their own homes and embedded in their communities for longer.

Caroline Woodside, ISCF Project Manager, Edinburgh Innovations.

Five Trailblazer projects

The Blackwood Neighbourhoods for Independent Living project is one of five ‘Trailblazer’ projects that will share £23 million in UK Research and Innovation funding as part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund Healthy Ageing Challenge.

The project builds on a growing focus on healthy ageing at the University of Edinburgh. In March 2021 the University was awarded two grants totalling more than £3 million to work with industry and care providers undertaking healthy ageing social, behavioural and design research.

The University’s Business School will lead the ‘Beyond 10,000 Steps’ project to understand ways in which health needs can be addressed to enable productive later-life employment, while researchers in the School of Social and Political Science will address challenges in the recruitment, retention and wellbeing of older workers in the residential care sectors, complementing initiatives being pursued by the University’s Advanced Care Research Centre funded by Legal & General.

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