Entrepreneurship

Backed by the National Institute on Aging, the a2 Pilot Awards encourage technology entrepreneurship at age • TechCrunch

There are more Americans over the age of 65 now than at any other time in history, and that number is expected to grow, according to the National Institute on Aging (NIA). With longer life spans come challenges like Alzheimer’s disease, which affects about 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 enter legacy technologies.

“It’s very much an undisputed, future-proof growth market that will have unprecedented opportunities driven by AI,” he said, adding: “We have two big mega-trends, AI and aging demographics, and it’s undeniable that there is a large, growing, mass market with future opportunities that they should focus on.”

The a2 Collective includes three Artificial Intelligence and Technology Collaboratories (AITCs) that the projects will work with. AITCs are located at Johns Hopkins University, University of Massachusetts Amherst, and University of Pennsylvania.

Most of the 33 pilot projects deal with cognitive decline, but some also deal with frailty, comorbidity, delirium, palliative care, social isolation and visual impairment. They will receive a total of over $5 million, and projects selected for funding will receive 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 awards came from private companies, while the rest were academic research projects. Many are also collaborations between the private sector and academia. A2 Collective reached out to startups, academic institutions, accelerator programs and venture capital firms focused on healthcare to find candidates.

a2 Pilot Awards first cohort

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 the impact where someone is going to use it, whether it’s a clinician, an older American, a caregiver or a nurse, over the next few years.”

Some examples of selected 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 thermal computer vision for patient monitoring and telehealth examinations. WellSaid.ai uses conversational artificial intelligence to assess health and detect signs of cognitive impairment and dementia for people in their own homes.

In addition to AITC, a2 Collective’s partnerships also include health systems, clinicians and researchers, venture capitalists, and public health institutions focused on technologies for aging and senior care.

Each AITC decides which projects receive 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 mentorship and guidance as startups in accelerator programs, Liu said.

The second a2 Pilot Awards is already in preparation, and the next group of finalists is currently selected. They will be published in the spring. Collective a2 will accept applications for its third competition from May 1 to July 31.

Liu told TechCrunch that he expects the aging technology to increase dramatically.

“As computing costs decline and our AI modeling capabilities grow, I think 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 perhaps help our vulnerable health care system,” he said. . We’re in the early innings of that.”

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