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Grant boosts collaboration between tech SMEs voluntary organisations

£85,000 has been awarded to nine North East based charities and social enterprises as part of the North East Social Tech Fund.

The money is to be reinvested directly into the nation’s digital economy, driving collaboration between voluntary organisations and tech SMEs.

Delivered by Digital Catapult North East Tees Valley (NETV), the fund helped voluntary organisations explore how technology can be applied within their organisations to address key challenges, ultimately improving more lives.

The fund has resulted in the creation of several commercial opportunities for UK tech organisations. The first three contracts have now been signed, with more to follow.

The first partnership involves a collaboration between Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust and London-based tech company Arcade. Arcade is helping the Trust, which is responsible for coordinating the development of England’s largest working forest and Northern Europe’s largest man-made lake, to create a prototype for an immersive application which will encourage visitors to engage with the park’s origins, flora and fauna.  In addition, it will enable anyone with a phone to become a Guardian of Kielder from the comfort of their own home. Arcade previously worked with SEALIFE London Aquarium, Madame Tussauds, and the Roald Dahl Museum.

The second contract was awarded to St Cuthbert’s Hospice and Leeds-based Pocketworks. Specialised in supporting people with life-limiting conditions, St Cuthbert’s Hospice has been looking for a way to help individuals and families deal with difficult topics such as death. The hospice has contracted Pocketworks to develop a brand-new social learning network that will enable the organisation to scale its learning course to a much bigger audience.

The third contract involves a partnership between NEYDL and WHiST. Like many other voluntary organisations, the organisations struggled with inefficient data management systems that required time and effort; something which could otherwise be spend on working with people in the community. Sunderland-based Throneware was awarded funding to develop a tailored data management solution which has the potential to scale within other voluntary organisations, solving a significant challenge within the social sector as a whole.

Anna Malley, Project Manager at Digital Catapult NETV, said: “It’s exciting to see the first contracts awarded to some of the most talented tech companies we know and some of the most socially driven voluntary organisations in our region. We’re really looking forward to seeing the results of these collaborations, and to witness how technology can be applied to make a real impact within those organisations that are making a difference within their communities.”

“We know that for social sector organisations, by design their priorities will always lie on improving the lives of people within their communities. But we also know that technology can play a crucial role in facilitating these aims. The North East Social Tech Fund is designed to give these organisations the opportunity to safely explore how technology could help them address the most pressing challenges in their organisations without deviating from core mission priorities.”

“We’re immensely grateful for the support of the organisations who’ve funded us. This includes Comic Relief, County Durham Community Foundation, Newcastle Building Society and Northstar Foundation. Without them, this support just simply wouldn’t be there.”

In total, the fund’s successful nine applicants include Citizens Advice Northumberland, Kielder Observatory, Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust, ManHealth CIC, Road to Recovery Trust, St Cuthbert’s Hospice, ESCAPE, The North East Young Dads and Lads Project and Women’s Health in South Tyneside. Further contract opportunities for tech SMEs are to be made available in 2020.

The North East Social Tech Fund has been funded by Comic Relief, County Durham Community Foundation, Newcastle Building Society and Northstar Foundation.