A company that is aiming to help millions of people worldwide without access to wheelchairs is one of eight social tech enterprises that have won backing in the latest round of the Nominet Trust’s Social Tech Seed funding programme.
The grants, which total £374,763, support early-stage ventures in developing digital technology solutions to demonstrate the potential of the social tech products and services they are creating to improve the lives of others, including wheelchair users, vulnerable people who need help navigating the legal system, stroke survivors, victims of stalking and young asthma patients.
Disrupt Disability, listed in the 2016 Nominet Trust 100, which recognises the work of people and organisations that use technology to improve lives, is changing the way wheelchairs are designed, manufactured and distributed. Its mission is to help the 52 million people around the world who do not have access to wheelchairs that meet their needs. This is being led through an online platform of open-source wheelchair designs, allowing people to access, create and adapt components to reflect specific needs, producing wheelchairs that are affordable, modular and fully customisable.
Other beneficiaries include the Glasgow-based Media co-op, which is creating an incident-recording app designed to empower victims of stalking and provide them with a sense of increased control and better chances of successful prosecutions. The company is working to develop the app with a number of organisations including Rape Crisis Scotland, the Scottish Women’s Rights Centre and the Scottish National Stalking Group. In a statement on its website, Media co-op said it was "thrilled" with the funding.
Another app-based project to have won funding is TapSOS, a non-verbal method of contacting the emergency services. It works to help people whose ability to communicate is compromised, for example by hearing impairments, speech impediments and breathing difficulties, or who are victims of domestic violence. With TapSOS, they can call for help without needing to speak.
Social Tech Seed has supported 40 organisations through its six rounds to date. Previous grantees include: Open Bionics, which uses the latest 3D body scanning and printing technology to create bionic hands that are lightweight, take five days to fit and cost just £2,000; and Alice, an online platform harnessing blockchain technology to make charitable giving more transparent, and thus restoring trust in charities.
Vicki Hearn, director of the Nominet Trust, said: "The UK has a burgeoning social tech sector, but access to funding for start-ups at the very early stages of their development remains limited. Yet this is crucial to enable social innovators to test their ideas and unlock the potential of digital tech to improve lives. The Nominet Trust is proud to support these eight new ventures through our Social Tech Seed programme, which has been hugely successful in kick-starting dozens of similarly exciting new projects. We’re looking forward to seeing how they develop."
The other ventures to have secured funding are:
- Corporation Pop: this created the Patient’s Virtual Guide, a mobile app that makes the hospital process easier for younger patients, allowing them to explore what they can expect to happen to them in hospital through a fun and stimulating game, harnessing augmented reality and beacon technology.
- Neurofenix: its Gameball Platform helps stroke survivors with rehabilitation therapy through games and social networking.
- Tiny Medical Apps: this has developed Learnable, a gamified app to encourage teenagers to stick to their personalised asthma action plans.
- Mapmyhealth: this helps people with diabetes to understand, engage with and self-manage their condition using digital therapeutics.
- Just: Transcription: an automated speech-to-text service that produces fast, accurate and cost-effective court transcripts, tackling the key barriers of accessibility and transparency of justice for the most vulnerable.