‘AssistiveTech in the UK 2022’ Ecosystem Overview Launched in House of Lords
Roxy Iqbal – Project Lead, ATLAS (Assistive Technology, Longevity and Ageing Society)
On 4 October 2022,I had the pleasure of hosting the official launch event and revealing key findings of the new ‘AssistiveTech in the UK’ interactive report, developed by ATLAS (Assistive Technology, Longevity and Ageing Society) with the support ofAging Analytics Agency and Deep Knowledge Philanthropy. The event was held in the UK Parliament at the historic House of Lords.
The event brought together key industry and ecosystem participants, thought leaders, and founders of AssistiveTech organisations across governance, policy, charity, academia, and industry in a bid to harness the power of technology for social good. Participants included award-winning disability inclusion strategist Shani Dhanda and Board Co-President of DATEurope (Digital Assistive Technology Industry Association for Europe) Antony Ruck, among others.
Technology is most impactful when it is people-focused. It has become a life-changing tool to break down barriers and expand opportunities for people living with disabilities and those who need assistance in later life. It is a powerful ally that fosters inclusivity. Advanced technologies have the power of enabling a more independent way of living by identifying a service or need that can be provided through innovative tech.
Our new open-access ‘AssistiveTech in the UK’ interactive report and IT-platform reveals a number of key findings and insights on these topics, based on data collected on 170 companies, 100 investors, and 25 non-profit organisations engaged in the AssistiveTech ecosystem in the UK.
AssistiveTech refers to technologies aimed at improving and automating the delivery and use of products and services for people living with disabilities and accessibility limitations. The World Health Organisation estimates that by 2030, over 2 billion people will need at least one assistive product. However, only 1 in 10 people affected have access to assistive technology today.
A UK-based advocacy initiative for which I serve as Project Lead, ATLAS (Assistive Technology, Longevity and Ageing Society), seeks to help inform and guide the public and private sectors to embrace the UK’s growing AssistiveTech, Longevity and AgeTech industries and to operate with a level of awareness that no longer excludes the senior community and those living with disabilities.
Stemming from the notion that technology is a major enabler of social inclusion, the initiative aims to leverage partnerships through convening tech founders, venture philanthropists, and impact investors to deliver a future of technology for all.
ATLAS’s analysis depicts five segments of companies within AssistiveTech in the UK: Assistive Care Services, Devices and Apps, Education and Consulting, Tech-Enabled Home Care, and Smart Homes technologies.
Developed by ATLAS in association withAging Analytics Agency andDeep Knowledge Philanthropy, the report provides insights on numerous AssistiveTech ecosystem participants and stakeholders, major trends, and obstacles, and it highlights the government’s developmental role in this emerging ecosystem.
For workers with disabilities, tools for accessibility such as screen readers, braille displays, and screen magnifiers, which enable visually impaired people to use computers and read online literature, for example, are necessary for workplace inclusion.
Other examples of AssistiveTech include mobility aids such as walkers and wheelchairs. For example, robotic assistance can help with mobility and household tasks. These technologies can also support the rehabilitation of people recovering from illnesses.
The global AssistiveTech market was valued at $20.7 billion in 2021 and is projected to grow at a CAGR of 4.8% from 2022 to 2028 to reach $28.8 billion. Beyond this phenomenal global growth, however, one key finding to emerge from the analysis underlying the ‘AssistiveTech in UK’ report is the strengths and advantages that give the UK the unique potential to become a global leader in the AssistiveTech Ecosystem.
AssistiveTech businesses can thrive in the UK due to the presence of a talented workforce, technology partnerships, and large growth opportunities for technology. For the report, we considered the following use cases: people living with disabilities and technological advancements designed for rehabilitation and an ageing population. Furthermore, the report showcases the importance of government support and its role in AssistiveTech as an efficient catalyst of social inclusion. The report highlights the UK’s efforts in driving support for those in need of using advanced technologies.
Within the UK, London is home to the largest number of companies providing services and solutions in the AssistiveTech sector. The remainder of companies are roughly evenly distributed across the nation. One hundred and thirty-seven local providers are situated in more than 105 cities around the UK, including Cambridge, Manchester, Oxford, and many others. In addition, 3% and 4% of companies are based in Wales and Scotland respectively.
The UK boasts a significant commercial health sector, ranking first among European countries by the number of life sciences Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) projects. The NHS supply chain provides suppliers with fewer points of sale and a single route to market.
AssistiveTech transcends its previous interpretation as simply DisabilityTech, supporting those who require assistive technology but are not identified as having a disability. This includes providing support to the ageing population. For more information on crucial overlaps between the UK’s AssistiveTech ecosystem and its ageing population, keep an eye out for Aging Analytics Agency’s upcoming ‘AgeTech in the UK Ecosystem 2022’ open-access analytical report and IT-platform. In addition, for more information on the broader applicability of AssistiveTech and the reasons that ecosystem stakeholders need to make proactive efforts to expand the scope of national challenges and opportunities targeted for impact by AssistiveTech, see the articles ‘We Are All Disabled Persons’ and ‘Beyond Disabilities: The Importance of Assistive Technologies’ by Director of Deep Knowledge Philanthropy Dr Olawale Ogunlana, M.D.
Now let’s take a look at some of the key highlights from the ‘AssistiveTech in the UK’ official launch event held in the UK House of Lords, including key take-aways from the day’s presentations, and key highlights and calls-to-action from the Panel Discussion.
Roxy Iqbal, Project Lead, ATLAS:
Welcome Address and Presentation of the ‘AssistiveTech in the UK’ report
The event began with opening remarks and an overview of ATLAS’s ‘AssistiveTech in the UK’ interactive report and IT-platform by me, ATLAS (Assistive Technology, Longevity and Ageing Society) Project Lead, Roxy Iqbal.
Assistive Technology, Longevity and Ageing Society (ATLAS) Project Lead Roxy Iqbal presenting at the ‘AssistiveTech in the UK’ launch event in the UK House of Lords.
‘The “AssistiveTech in the UK 2022” report brings a much-needed spotlight to an ecosystem with the potential to transform the lives of millions of people in the United Kingdom. It is a call for venture philanthropists, policymakers, and big tech companies to support our AssistiveTech companies and incorporate their innovations and solutions into a broader and more inclusive range of products and services, to rightly provide equal access and experiences for all.’ - Roxy Iqbal, Project Lead for ATLAS.
Assistive Technology, Longevity and Ageing Society (ATLAS) Project Lead Roxy Iqbal presenting at the ‘AssistiveTech in the UK’ launch event in the UK House of Lords.
Ian Inkster, Director, Aging Analytics Agency:
AgeTech in the UK
Following Roxy, Ian Inkster (Head of Policy and Governance Analytics for Aging Analytics Agency) took the stage to share key findings from Aging Analytics Agency’s ‘AgeTech in the UK Ecosystem 2022’ interactive report and IT-platform, as well as key overlaps between the AssistiveTech and AgeTech ecosystems in the UK, and more broadly how key stakeholders, decision makers, and ecosystem participants from both spheres need to make more proactive efforts to seek synergies and broaden the scope of challenges and opportunities that they target for impact.
‘Sitting here in a policy-making environment today, we must ask the question, how much practical utility is there in distinguishing between disability and ageing? Both pose similar challenges, socially, economically, and therefore policy-wise, and both often find their solutions in the same sectors, from advanced biomedicine to more market-ready solutions…such as AssistiveTech and its adjacent sector, AgeTech.” – Ian Inkster, Head of Policy Analytics for Aging Analytics Agency
Head of Policy Analytics for Aging Analytics Agency Ian Inkster presenting at the ‘AssistiveTech in the UK’ launch event in the UK House of Lords.
Dmitry Kaminskiy, General Partner, Deep Knowledge Group:
Importance of Modern Venture Philanthropy; Future of DeepTech for Social Good
Next to present was Deep Knowledge Group General Partner Dmitry Kaminskiy on ‘The Importance of Modern Venture Philanthropy – Future of DeepTech for Social Good’, in which he showcased Deep Knowledge Group’s active, long-standing support, development, and advancement of DeepTech for social good, impact philanthropy, and ethical investment; his conviction that DeepTech innovation is the most efficient driver of ‘social profit’, technological humanitarianism, and societal development; and the fact that venture philanthropy is the most profitable long-term investment for individuals, national economies, and humanity itself.
Deep Knowledge Group General Partner Dmitry Kaminskiy presenting at the ‘AssistiveTech in the UK’ launch event in the UK House of Lords.
‘The UK’s very well-developed tech and DeepTech ecosystem, which for the first time surpassed £1 trillion in value this year, has enormous potential to quickly and efficiently provide tangible humanitarian benefit to a number of issues of pressing national socioeconomic and societal concern, and to deliver direct, tech-enabled, socially inclusive humanitarian benefit to citizens. The AssistiveTech and AgeTech sectors are very good case studies of this general principle, being market-ready sectors with immediate application to huge numbers of infrastructurally excluded demographics.’ – Dmitry Kaminskiy, General Partner of Deep Knowledge Group.
Kaminskiy added: ‘The amount of tangible action and actual impact, however, is completely disproportionate to this immense potential. There is no lack of resources here, only a lack of sufficient UK tech and DeepTech industry motivation, harmonisation, and cooperation. It is precisely this gap that we are seeking to neutralise via the support of organisations like ATLAS, whose mission is to establish the bridges and forge the alliances among industry, non-profits, government, policy, technologists, entrepreneurs, advocates, and other ecosystem stakeholders required to quickly transform these potentials into realities for citizens.’
Antony Ruck, CEO of Aventido, Co-President of DATEurope (European Industry Association for Digital Assistive Technology):
The UK’s Role in the Global Growth of AssistiveTech
We then heard from Antony Ruck, Board Co-President of Digital Assistive Technology Industry Association for Europe (DATEurope) and former Board Chair of the British Assistive Technology Association, who brought the day’s discussions to a more international arena by highlighting the UK’s particular spot in the global cooperative growth of AssistiveTech and the ways in which it can both leverage its unique strengths to establish and maintain an internationally competitive leadership position in this domain, as well as work synergistically to form bridges, cross borders and work with other regions to expand and accelerate the social profits of AssistiveTech for all.
‘The purpose of Assistive Technology is to maintain or improve an individual's functioning and independence and thereby promote their well-being… if there was a more ethical goal for anyone, then surely what could be better than to invest in those technologies that achieve those aims?’ – Antony Ruck, Board Co-President of Digital Assistive Technology Industry Association for Europe (DATEurope) and former Board Chair of the British Assistive Technology Association.
Board Co-President of Digital Assistive Technology Industry Association for Europe (DATEurope) Antony Ruck at the ‘AssistiveTech in the UK’ launch event in the UK House of Lords.
Shani Dandha, Award-Winning Disability Inclusion Activist:
Challenging Mindsets: How Disability Affects Us All
Multi-Award-Winning Disability Inclusion and Accessibility Strategist Shani Dhanda was next to deliver a special address to the day’s assembled speakers and attendees. She discussed her own first-hand experience of a lack of inclusivity, especially as a consumer of mainstream goods.
Multi-Award-Winning Disability Inclusion and Accessibility Strategist Shani Dhanda presenting her special address at the ‘AssistiveTech in the UK’ launch event in the UK House of Lords.
‘The spending power of disabled people is £274 billion a year, which rises 14% a year. We just don’t have enough data to understand disabeld consumers. Less than 10% of organisations have a plan to access this ‘purple pound’. In fact, on average, every month businesses lose £2 billion by ignoring the needs of disabled people, and by not considering us as consumers… and these figures are pre-COVID, they are much worse now.” – Shani Dhanda, Multi-Award-Winning Disability Inclusion and Accessibility Strategist.
Dominic Jennings, Head of Strategic Partnerships, Deep Knowledge Group:
Investment Digest: AssistiveTech, Longevity, AgeTech & DeepTech
To close out the day’s presentations, we heard from Dominic Jennings, Head of Strategic Partnerships for Deep Knowledge Group, who delivered an overview of the AssistiveTech, Longevity, AgeTech, and DeepTech investment landscape, highlighting the rise of industries that are equally viable vehicles for ethical profit and engines of social good, as well as the increasing numbers of investors who are seeking to deliver more humanitarian benefit with their investments, and seeking social profit as an equally important ROI alongside their standard metrics of success.
Head of Strategic Partnerships for Deep Knowledge Group Dominic Jennings presenting at the ‘AssistiveTech in the UK’ launch event in the UK House of Lords.
‘As evident in our AssistiveTech in the UK report, the UK Tech ecosystem possesses all the required resources and critical mass of market-ready products and services to establish itself as a global leader in AssistiveTech, generating an immediate and long-term impact on some of our most pressing socio-economic issues. However, major UK AssistiveTech ecosystem players must prioritise practical technologies and harness existing resources in a more systematic manner, creating synergies and achieving rapid growth at both the organisational and national levels.’ – Dominic Jennings, Head of Strategic Partnerships, Deep Knowledge Group
ATLAS ‘AssistiveTech in UK’ Panel Discussion
The event concluded with an open discussion between the speakers and audience. The subject of inclusivity remained dominant throughout. While the report has been incredibly well received, data only goes so far; it requires a ‘mindset change’, and ATLAS could be the driving force to enable such change.
Speakers Antony Ruck and Shani Dhanda expanded on the ‘Clickaway Purple Pound’ – where online businesses lose money due to their lack of accessibility. Furthermore, it was said that $17 billion – approximately 10% of total online spend – was lost due to businesses not providing adequate consumer experience for people with disabilities, thus losing customers and money. The audience suggested this is vital ‘win-win’ information for investors and venture philanthropists; the opportunity and return is evident, but the communication between ‘the money’ and the ecosystem it could potentially fund is lacking.
This brought on further ideas about how to highlight the aforementioned loss to companies, so they understand their own position in a landscape of digital inclusiveness, and in turn how applying a level of technological responsibility can actually benefit them, their employees and their business.
However, there is an urgent need to bridge the gaps first, to connect sectors and to provide the overall understanding and education of the opportunities for social inclusion, economic growth or investment, to ensure the prosperity and growth of the UK’s AssistiveTech ecosystem.
What’s Next for ATLAS?
Following the panel discussion where the the notion of technological responsibility arose, so did the unmet need for systems, resources and organisations capable of showcasing both the ways that UK tech companies are and are not supporting the further growth of the UK AssistiveTech Ecosystem and on-boarding the pervasive trends of increased accessibility and inclusivity.
In response to these points, ATLAS proposed to develop, via inclusive cross-sector dialogue with AssistiveTech ecosystem participants and stakeholders, a Technological Responsibility Index.
The index will seek to rank and benchmark, via neutral, data-driven metrics, the overall levels of support provided by UK tech companies of the further development of the nation’s AssistiveTech Ecosystem, as well as their own levels of corporate and infrastructural inclusivity and accessibility.
The assembled speakers and panellists of the ‘AssistiveTech in the UK’ launch event in the UK House of Lords.
About Assistive Technology, Longevity and Ageing Society
Assistive Technology, Longevity and Ageing Society (ATLAS) is an advocacy initiative by Deep Knowledge Group for the prioritisation of frontier technologies in AssistiveTech and AgeTech to impact lives on a global scale. ATLAS believes that technology is a major enabler of social inclusion in the world, and so it leverages partnerships via tech founders, venture philanthropy and impact investment to deliver a future of technology for all.
About Deep Knowledge Philanthropy Deep Knowledge Philanthropy is a data-driven non-profit project by Deep Knowledge Group committed to the support, development, and advancement of ‘DeepTech for Social Good’, impact philanthropy, and ethical investment, founded on the belief that DeepTech innovation is the most efficient driver of ‘social profit’, technological humanitarianism, and societal development, and that venture philanthropy is the most profitable long-term investment for individuals, national economies, and humanity itself.
About Aging Analytics Agency Aging Analytics Agency, the Longevity-focused analytical subsidiary of Deep Knowledge Group, is the world’s premier provider of industry analytics on the topics of Longevity, Preventive Medicine and Economics of Aging, and the convergence of technologies such as AI, Blockchain, Digital Health and their impact on the healthcare industry.