Birmingham company pioneers breakthrough for dementia sufferers

People living with early dementia sought to test new memory app.

Memrica, a tech start-up based at the Innovation Birmingham Campus is developing a mobile aid for people with memory problems, including the early stages of dementia.

A grant from Nominet Trust, the UK’s leading ‘tech for good’ funder has been awarded to develop the first roll-out of the app, which is called Memrica Prompt. Designed to reduce the anxiety and frustration caused by forgetting essential information, it creates a virtual link between the things people want to remember and the objects and people around them. It also offers a smart reminder system, which collates data, image and voice files to prompt the user about day to day tasks and appointments. By increasing confidence and prolonging independence, the app is designed to delay the need for more extensive health and social care, and reduce stress for families and carers.

The tablet and smartphone app is being designed and developed in collaboration with people with dementia, their carers and clinical experts. A pilot population of those with early stage dementia –particularly people under 65, who enjoy using smartphone and tablet apps and already have an iPhone or iPad – is now sought to test the app.

Mary Matthews, founder of Memrica said: “44 million people worldwide live with dementia and this number is expected to triple by 2050. Eight per cent of those diagnosed with dementia are under 65. However, when it comes to using technology, research from Deloitte suggests that by 2020, the gap between smartphone and tablet usage for the over 65’s and younger generations will be negligible.

“Memrica Prompt is a memory aid that can be built over time with photos, prompts, references and calendar notes to make all aspects of everyday life easier, such as going to the hairdresser or doctors, as well as relating to family and friends. Each subscription package gives access to up to five users, enabling loved ones and carers to contribute information to the app.

“We have created the Memrica Prompt test application on the iOS Apple platform and are now seeking 50 people either living with early onset dementia, or who are worried about failing memory, to help test the initial versions and then participate in a pilot. The outcome of the trial – which will be independently run by Coventry University’s Health Design Technology Institute – will be vital to shaping the continued development of the app.”

The Memrica Prompt app is expected to launch to the public this summer. Organisations that have already had input into the development of Memrica include Young Dementia UK, Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, Worcestershire Early Intervention and Manchester Early Onset Dementia Services.

Memrica is one of the tech start-ups on Innovation Birmingham’s Entrepreneurs for the Future programme, where the Entrepreneurs in Residence have assisted with the development of the business plan.

Dr David Hardman MBE, CEO of Innovation Birmingham said: “Mary and her team have developed a new application in an area that is completely underserviced. The amount of interest from organisations such as Bupa, Young Dementia, Alzheimer’s Society and a number of NHS Trusts is very pleasing to see. The financial support from Nominet Trust to get the Memrica Prompt app to the test stage has been vital, and the importance of such funding to provide grants for ‘Tech for Good’ initiatives such as this cannot be underestimated.”

The Entrepreneurs for the Future business incubation centre, provides bespoke mentoring and business planning to achieve investor readiness, as well as free telephone usage, 20Gbit/s broadband and office space for nine months; a package which has a monetary value of £10,000. Part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, e4f is unique to Birmingham and is specifically designed to harness and support the city’s burgeoning tech community.

To participate in the trial of Memrica Prompt, please email Mary Matthews, [email protected].