Notes from the field: Future outlook of innovation within IT4Anxiety

Based at Magee College, Ulster University, Professor Joan Condell’s research group in the School of Computing, Engineering & Intelligent Systems is responsible for the day-to-day management of Work Package 2 - Testing and Validation. The overall objective of WP2 is to identify, select and support SMEs to develop and test their technological tool in the e-mental health ecosystem.

Since the beginning of the project over 45 companies have engaged with the IT4Anxiety project, have developed and presented their technology, and been assessed by the Validation committee. This committee evaluates the start-ups technology, their business model and testing procedures. The committee also considers whether the technology put forward, appropriately targets mental health, specifically anxiety associated with Alzheimer’s Disease or PTSD and also anxiety in general.

Of the 45 companies who have been assessed by the Validation committee, 23 meet the entry criteria and have joined the consortium. These start-ups continue to develop their test protocol and ethics application in preparation for testing within a range of settings throughout North West Europe (NWE). Ulster University, and its collaborating partners support start-ups throughout this journey through regular pulse checks. These checks are routine meetings in which start-ups can report on their progress, ask questions and request support from within the IT4Anxiety Consortium for any challenges they may have.

The recent IT4Anxiety conference in Lille, France presented start-ups with the perfect opportunity to share their experiences during a series of round table conversations. During the round table conversations start-ups discussed innovation, testing and IT4Anxiety in general. Speaking on innovations, many start-ups regarded the mental health sector as being especially difficult to innovate within. Furthermore, in order to secure appropriate testing sites or populations, start-ups reported that they have found it very difficult to get their innovation in front of specific users, particularly patients. It is acknowledged that the testing and development road is long and can be a challenge regardless of start-up size and budgets. However, start-ups felt that initiatives such as the IT4Anxiety project are tremendously helpful in their product development journey. A number of start-ups also reported that they could never have achieved this level of user testing without access to the expertise and support available in IT4Anxiety.

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