14 June 2021

The Business School is leading on a major project aimed at helping older people live at home for longer and with greater independence.
Older couple looking at tablet photo created by tirachardz

With Blackwood Homes and Care, and other industry partners, the University of Edinburgh has won funding from UK Research and Innovation as part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) Healthy Ageing Challenge.

The £12.5m Blackwood Neighbourhoods for Independent Living project will combine age-friendly homes with innovative technology, products, and services to support healthy, independent living, and reduce social isolation. Funding of £6m has been secured from UK Research and Innovation with matched funding from project partners.

New and retrofit homes across three sites in Dundee, Glasgow, and Buckie will benefit from innovations including home devices connected through the Internet of Things to provide health and wellbeing data through an app, and a 'virtual neighbourhood' online community enabling residents to gamify their fitness goals and share progress with friends and family.

The University of Edinburgh will work with residents to co-design a 'value exchange model' allowing them to contribute to their communities by sharing and trading skills and expertise.

Stephen Osborne, Professor of International Public Management at the Business School, and Principal Investigator for the project, said:

"We are looking forward to working with Blackwood on this project. We will bring our service design and management expertise to lead both the co-design work with the elderly residents in all three localities and the stakeholder engagement with the key public services involved.

"Public service design in a virtual space, as the pandemic requires, is an innovative and exciting venture and we believe it will not only benefit Blackwood residents but also offer key lessons for the future as we emerge from the pandemic."

Edinburgh Innovations, the University of Edinburgh’s commercialisation service, worked closely with Blackwood and partners to secure the ISCF funding.

Fanchea Kelly, Chief Executive at Blackwood, said:

"While Blackwood has a unique focus on design and innovation for independent living, this funding takes us into an exciting future, where we can support more older people and people with disabilities to live their life to the full.

"What we are proposing at our three neighbourhoods will effectively create communities of the future, providing what we hope is a blueprint for great places to be as people grow older. We want Scotland to be the best place to grow older and we believe the best way to do that is to listen to residents and design solutions with expert partners to respond to what they want."

This work builds on a growing focus on healthy ageing at the University of Edinburgh, including the Business School’s Beyond 10,000 Steps" project which aims to enable productive later-life employment.