National Institute on Aging Funds Agetech Startups with a2 Pilot Awards

There are more Americans aged 65+ than ever before, as the National Institute on Aging reports. This number is projected to increase with longer lifespans, unfortunately bringing health issues like Alzheimer’s—affecting 1 in 9 seniors.

A2 Pilot Awards, funded by the NIA with $40 million for the next five years, were created to develop tech for seniors. Today’s announcement revealed 33 projects selected for funding; most employ artificial intelligence and/or machine learning tech, and 40% are headed by women.

Stephen Liu, the managing director of a2 Collective, expresses hope that their awards will inspire more tech entrepreneurs to enter agetech.

“AI-driven opportunities in the largely uncontested, future-proof market of aging demographics are immense,” he said. “It’s irrefutable that this is a large and growing sector that should not be overlooked.”

The a2 Collective comprises three Artificial Intelligence and Technology Collaboratories (AITG+) at John Hopkins University, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and the University of Pennsylvania.

33 pilot projects focusing on cognitive decline, frailty, comorbidity, delirium, palliative care, social isolation and visual impairment will receive a total of $5 million in zero equity grants (up to $200k each) over one year.

About half of applications for the first awards were from private companies, while the rest were academic research projects and collaborations between private sector and academia. To find applicants, A2 Collective reached out to startups, academic institutions, accelerator programs, and venture capital firms focused on healthcare.

The a2 Pilot Awards' first cohort

of 20 grantees was announced on June 1, and a total of $1.75 million in grants will be divided among them to fund innovative research related to autism spectrum disorders.

On June 1, we announced the first cohort of 20 grantees receiving

Liu emphasized the commercial potential of this program, hoping it will soon be utilized by clinicians, seniors, caregivers and nurses.

Autotune Me uses music to help manage Alzheimer’s and related conditions; Bestie Bot utilizes RGB-D depth cameras and thermal computer vision for patient monitoring and telehealth checkups; WellSaid.ai leverages conversational AI for health assessments, detecting cognitive impairment & dementia in homes.

In addition to the AITG+s, a2 Collective partners with health care systems, clinicians/researchers, venture capitalists, and public health institutions devoted to agetech/elder care.

AITG+ grants funding to projects and connects them with gerontologists, geriatricians, Alzheimer’s specialists and other experts for mentorship – providing the same support as pre-seed startups in accelerator programs. According to Liu, this is how they ensure every project succeeds.

We are excited to announce the finalists for our second a2 Pilot Awards, with an announcement coming this spring. Applications for our third competition will be accepted from May 1 to July 31.

Liu predicts a major surge in agetech.

As computing costs decrease and AI model capabilities soar, we can anticipate a “Cambrian explosion” of tech to significantly improve the lives of seniors, particularly those with Alzheimer’s; this could even benefit our overloaded healthcare system. We’re just beginning to see its effects.

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Max Chen

Max Chen is an AI expert and journalist with a focus on the ethical and societal implications of emerging technologies. He has a background in computer science and is known for his clear and concise writing on complex technical topics. He has also written extensively on the potential risks and benefits of AI, and is a frequent speaker on the subject at industry conferences and events.

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