Backed by the National Institute on Aging, a2 Pilot Awards encourage age-old tech entrepreneurship • TechCrunch

Backed by the National Institute on Aging, a2 Pilot Awards encourage age-old tech entrepreneurship • TechCrunch

There are now more Americans 65 and older than at any time in history, and that number is expected to rise, according to the National Institute on Aging (NIA). With longer lives come challenges like Alzheimer’s, which affects one in nine Americans age 65 and older.

The a2 Pilot Awards were created to encourage the development of technology for seniors. Funded by the NIA with $40 million over the next five years, the awards today announced the first cohort of 33 projects selected for funding. Most use artificial intelligence or machine learning technology, and 40% are led by women.

Stephen Liu, managing director of a2 Collective, which oversees the awards, told TechCrunch that he hopes it will encourage more tech entrepreneurs to get into the technology of the era.

“It is a largely uncontested, growing and future-proof market that will have unprecedented opportunities driven by AI,” he said, adding: “We have two big megatrends, AI and aging demographics, and it is irrefutable that there’s a big, growing, massive, future-ready market that they should focus on.”

The a2 Collective includes three Artificial Intelligence and Technology Collaborators (AITC) with whom they will work on the projects. AITCs are located at John Hopkins University, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Most of the 33 pilot projects address cognitive decline, but some also address frailty, comorbidity, delirium, palliative care, social isolation, and visual impairment. They will receive a total of more than $5 million, and projects selected for funding will get up to $200,000 in zero-equity grants to cover direct costs over a one-year period.

About half of the applications for the first prizes came from private companies, while others are academic research projects. Many are also collaborations between the private sector and academia. A2 Collective reached out to startups, academic institutions, accelerator programs, and healthcare-focused venture capital firms to find applicants.

a2 Pilot Awards first cohort

“In this particular program, we definitely have an eye on commercial use, or some kind of commercialization of the project,” Liu said. “Ideally, you want to see an impact where it’s going to be used by someone, whether it’s a doctor, an older American, a caregiver or a nurse, for years to come.”

Some examples of select projects include Autotune Me, which uses music to address the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and related conditions. Bestie Bot uses RGB-D depth cameras and computer thermal vision to perform monitoring and telehealth checks on patients. And WellSaid.ai is using conversational AI to conduct health assessments and detect signs of cognitive decline and dementia for people in their homes.

In addition to AITCs, a2 Collective’s partnerships also include health systems, clinicians and researchers, venture capitalists, and public health institutions that focus on age technology and elder care.

Each AITC decides which projects get funding and also gives them access to gerontologists, geriatricians, Alzheimer’s specialists and other experts. The idea is to give each project the same kind of mentoring and guidance as pre-seed startups in accelerator programs, Liu said.

The second a2 Pilot Awards are already in the works, with the next batch of finalists currently selected. They will be announced in spring. The a2 Collective will also accept applications for its third contest from May 1 to July 31.

Liu told TechCrunch that he expects to see a dramatic increase in the old technology.

“As the cost of computing falls and the capabilities of our AI model increase, I believe we can expect a Cambrian explosion of new technologies that will dramatically help older Americans, including those with Alzheimer’s, live longer and better lives. and maybe help our beleaguered healthcare system,” he said. We are in the first innings”.

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