Enterprising ideas to improve the lives of Sheffield people put on show

The Sheffield Smart Lab demo day.
The Sheffield Smart Lab demo day.
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Sheffield entrepreneurs are developing ideas to transform the lives of city residents.

From apps that record the fitness and nutrition of older people to a method of tracking footfall in the city centre, the projects are all designed to make things better for people in Sheffield.

Jake Andrews explains his idea at the Sheffield Smart Lab demo day.

Jake Andrews explains his idea at the Sheffield Smart Lab demo day.

Nine ideas were put on public display at a demo day organised by the Sheffield Smart Lab programme. Run by the city council, Amey and the Ferrovial Services Centre of Excellence for Cities, it supports entrepreneurs trying either to help people live independently or improve the city centre.

One of those to show off their work was Jake Andrews, a University of Sheffield PhD student. Jake, 29, is working with the university's Centre for Assistive Technology and Connected Healthcare - or Catch - on an app focused on supporting general wellbeing.

The idea is to give older people a way to record what they eat and how much exercise they do. The data it produces can potentially give an insight into their mental health.

Jake, from Walkley, said: "We have had good meetings with the council and everyone is really excited about the project.

Finalists in the Sheffield Smart Lab programme.

Finalists in the Sheffield Smart Lab programme.

"There is a lot of hope for the future and belief that this sort of technology is going to be much more common in people's homes."

More than 50 ideas were submitted to the Smart Lab programme. The nine winners were offered an incubation and acceleration programme, sponsored by the two Sheffield universities.

Jake and his supervisor Arlene Astell hope to trial their app Nana - short for Novel Assessment of Nutrition and Ageing - on new patients in a rehabilitation programme organised by the council and the NHS.

"I talk to a lot of older people about technology and mental health," said Jake. "Even people with university degrees and very good education aren't in the habit of using technology.

"These days we think everyone is online, but they aren't. So we need these easy-to-use interfaces with good design to help these people access the world."

Other ideas on show at the demo day included GoodGym, a community project using organised runs to take volunteers to people who would benefit from their support while improving people's fitness, and Situate, a self-guided tour app for mobile phones.

The council's deputy leader Leigh Bramall said it was important to drive innovation in Sheffield.

He added: "There’s an energy and appetite for it in the city and we recognise that in order to do this we need to partner with start-ups and innovators.

"That’s what Sheffield Smart Lab is all about and by supporting entrepreneurs and helping them to build on their ideas and making them a reality; we have benefited both them and the city.

"The challenges that the solutions solve are hugely important to Sheffield and this has given us a great opportunity to offer a better quality of life for the people of Sheffield and attract visitors to the city centre.”