Last week more than two hundred would-be revolutionaries answered a call to arms and gathered in London with a view to reimagining the future - let me tell you about the first day of the proceedings...
They came from far and wide: zealous start-ups, world renowned gerontechnologists, distinguished academics, visionary NHS and public health practitioners and policymakers, canny financiers, emerging thought leaders, and many other rebels united in a commitment to not act their age.
The catalyst which sparked this curious congregation was the Long Term Care Revolution, a £4 million National Challenge, powered by Innovate UK, which aims to give UK businesses a head start in the drive to transform long term care from an "end of life" institutional model, commonly regarded as not fit for purpose, to a dynamic market of innovative new products and services that offer people greater choice and flexibility of care when they reach later life.
For two intense days we listened to the experts, exchanged wild ideas, pitched, argued, deliberated, shouted, provoked, questioned, networked and explored collaborative opportunities.
Kicking things off, Mike Biddle, Deputy Director of Innovation Programmes for Innovate UK, pointed out that late life care, often regarded as an economic liability, is actually an expanding market which we need to radically rethink, as an engine for economic growth.
Citing the need for options that will enable people to live with more dignity and autonomy, Mike echoed the sentiments of Lord Victor Adebowale, CEO of Turning Point and non-executive board member NHS England, who pointed out how poor citizen experience and outcomes, growing demand from an ageing population, increased prevalence of people with multiple long term conditions and an unprecedented financial challenge, underpin the need to transform the existing institutional model from reacting to illness to a prevention service, which empowers citizens to exercise greater levels of choice, control and self-management of their own care.
The Biggest Challenge of the 21st Century
According to Jackie Marshall-Balloch, Lead Specialist at Innovate UK and the rabble-rousing instigator of the 'Long Term Care Revolution', the magnitude and ambition of our challenge is not to be underestimated.
"Don't bring us what you've already got in the pipeline, it's not good enough", she told the entrepreneurs. "We are looking for exciting, radical, risky, disruptive innovative ideas. Engage with unusual partners. Surprise and delight us with concepts for new products and services that will improve quality of life as we age, and create a better more sustainable future for those of us who will develop physical and/or cognitive conditions. This is a unique opportunity to harness Britain's innovative capability and show the rest of the world what we stand for. And what's more your development is 100% funded; we de-risk you!"
As regular readers will know, the reason I'm so excited by the promise of this revolution is not only do I get to play a part in cracking the last great marketing frontier, but in so doing we get to establish a consumer facing market for babyboomers which will benefit me and my children and perhaps even my grandchildren in time to come.
But can we put a figure on the opportunity? The irresistible Peter Wintlev-Jensen, Deputy Head DG Connect at the European Commission says the 'silver economy' is already the third largest economy in the world, worth in the region of $7 trillion per year, with the private spending power of older adults set to reach $15 trillion globally by 2020 (according to research conducted by Merrill Lynch).
"Two important steps are needed to promote healthy and active aging across Europe", says Peter. "First, we have to put risk and innovation at the heart of the transformation of our health and social care systems. Breaking down barriers and encouraging collaboration among all stakeholders. From researchers to designers; big industry to smart start-ups; hospitals to care professionals, not forgetting citizens and carers."
"Second, older adults need to take on a more active role and become empowered consumers. They can be the drivers of the change we need so badly." (Click here to read more about Peter's views on growing the Silver Economy)
We heard that emerging technologies will continue to break down barriers, enabling people to take more control over their own health and care. According to Jonny Voon Lead Technologist at Innovate UK, the Internet of Things, in particular, will not only further blur the line between IT systems and the real world, but it will change the way we design, deploy, and use services and utilities.
Meanwhile Jane Barnacle, Director of Patients and Information, explained how NHS England is responding to the challenge of an ageing population and the increased prevalence of multiple-long term conditions in the London region.
According to Jane, "Lessons learned from managing mental health conditions, so often a cause and a consequence of long term care, is that when people are provided with a choice they tend to choose well. We are on the cusp of a revolution in health and care. A revolution which will see an explosion of more people-centric personalised care. And that is why we are ready and willing to join forces with social entrepreneurs and small businesses, to leverage our expertise and contacts and think together about co-creating innovative, new solutions for the Long Term Care Revolution National Challenge."
Nicky Runeckles, a beneficiary of this new model of working, was on hand to talk about the Big White Wall, a social enterprise start-up which sprang up in the East End of London. After joining forces with the NHS, a truly original back of an envelope concept was transformed into a thriving award winning international business, achieving big results for thousands of people dealing with mental health issues; and in so doing saving NHS England £370 for each person using the SME's innovative service.
As you can see, it was a packed day of inspirational talks and discussions. And there was so much more to share with you than there is room to discuss here, though do check my Creative Skills For Life site for a little more information. And I must mention Dr Charles Davie, Director, UCL Partners, one of three London-based Academic Health Science Networks collaborating with NHS England, universities, industry and SMEs to identify, test and help accelerate the faster adoption of cost effective innovation into health and care across the region. Charlie also issued a passionate rallying call for start-ups to join the revolution.
Next week I will tell you about day two of our event, which included advice on funding and investment, and a Dragon's Den style 'Pitch Perfect' competition, which even attracted the attention of the Queen.
If you are anywhere near Edinburgh June 1st and 2nd we're going to do it all over again, and you are welcome to join us. Click here for details.
And don't forget to follow CSL on Twitter for updates on future events.
Pictured: Jackie Marshall-Balloch - image with permission by Martin Athanasiou.