Techforce19: funding for digital solutions

March 23, 2020

NHSX is making funding available to support digital solutions that help people during the coronavirus outbreak. Techforce19 is a new programme, open to innovative technology companies in England who will compete for government funding of up to £25,000 to test their solution.

The funding for digital solutions will be made available to innovators who can find digital ways to support those who need help during the coronavirus outbreak – including people requiring mental health support and those with social care needs.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said, 'Staying at home and avoiding contact with others will be absolutely necessary in reducing the spread of this virus and ultimately it will save lives.

'However, we know isolation is not easy – especially for older people, those who live alone, have mental health problems or those who care for others.

'If people cannot leave the house, we need to quickly find ways to bring support to them and today I am calling on the strength of our innovative technology sector to take on this challenge.

'Techforce19 will mobilise the UK’s incredible reservoir of talent to develop simple, accessible tools that can be rolled out quickly and help tackle the effect of social isolation.'

In total, there is £500,000 available to bid for – with funding of up to £25,000 per company available to innovators with solutions that could be deployed at scale in the next few weeks. Specifically, the programme is looking for digital solutions that can be deployed quickly, and could include:

  • Providing remote social care - for example by locating and matching qualified carers to those in need and managing and delivering care in care homes.
  • Optimisation of the care and volunteer sector - for example by developing tools to recruit, train and co-ordinate local volunteers into clinical and non-clinical workers. Or by developing tools to predict demand for health and care workers across the country to improve deployment and management of resources.
  • Improving mental health support - for example by making it easier to discover and deliver mental health services and support, or by developing tools to support self-management of mental health and wellbeing.

Matthew Gould, Chief Executive of NHSX, said, 'Tech can play an important role in helping the country deal with the challenges created by coronavirus. This competition is focussed on the problems created by isolation, which lend themselves to digital solutions. It will allow NHSX to accelerate the development of those solutions, so within weeks they can help those in isolation suffering from loneliness, mental health issues and other problems.'

The Government has strongly advised everyone in the country – but especially those aged 70 or over, people with underlying medical conditions or pregnant women – to reduce social interaction to help minimise the spread of the virus. Those considered most at risk of having serious complications from the virus – for instance people receiving treatment for cancer – have also been asked to stay at home for 12 weeks as part of efforts to ‘shield’ them from the virus.

The Techforce19 programme is being launched by NHSX and managed by GovTech venture firm, PUBLIC and is encouraging innovators to apply with innovative technological solutions. PUBLIC will not receive any payment for running this competition.

Daniel Korski, Chief Executive of PUBLIC, said, 'The spread of COVID-19 has rapidly driven huge changes to British life. For many of us, our usual day-to-day is on hold as we work from home and avoid socialising with others. For those most vulnerable, however, social distancing and self-isolation will take a much greater toll. We hope that TechForce 19 will be a useful step towards identifying technologies which can be deployed quickly to help people when they need it most.

'PUBLIC has never been more certain of the value of technology in making a real difference to public services and citizens’ lives. We remain committed to helping government identify the right technologies to address the issues we face as a society.'

For more information on the programme and how to apply, visit the Techforce19 website. The closing date for applications is 26th March 2020 and those selected to take part will be announced on 3rd April.

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