Small businesses have been urged to bring their ideas to a £5.6m project set to improve life for people as they age.

The North of Tyne region will lead the way in creating the products, jobs and services needed for ‘the ageing economy’, to help people lead longer and more fulfilling lives.

Businesses should contact the leaders of the Internet of Caring Things (IoCT) programme at the UK’s National Innovation Centre for Data (NICA) in Newcastle, who can offer the expertise, experience, facilities, and funding needed to make those ideas a reality, using the email address

North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA) Cabinet Member for Jobs Innovation and Growth and Leader of Newcastle City Council Cllr Nick Kemp said: “This is a call to action. I want businesses here to create the products and services that will allow us all to age well. In practical terms that means we can offer businesses the expertise, steer and direction needed to de-risk their innovations. It means we can do the groundwork they might not otherwise have the capacity to do, to allow them to move into this new market. We are absolutely committed to creating an Internet of Caring Things in the North of Tyne and I’m passionate about making it work.  This is a real opportunity.”

The IoCT is defined as ‘a network of connected objects and cognitive systems with a clear mission: to care for people and what matters to them’.

The programme has been created in partnership between NICA, the CPI, and the North of Tyne Combined Authority and will help businesses offer solutions based on people’s health and wellbeing needs, identified through VOICE®, as well as drive new jobs and skills in the region.

Deep tech innovation strategist Dr Arun Harish, who is Director of Strategy for the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) and who sits on the North East Local Enterprise Partnership Innovation Board, said developments in the ageing economy could have a profound social impact. “If you’re a business who is in the business of innovating or if you’re making products for the market, come and talk to us,” he said: “There’s a huge opportunity that’s emerging in the field of the Internet of Caring Things It really doesn’t matter if you’re innovating in that space already, or not. If you have ideas for new-to-market products or products that are new to your own business, we are here to help you explore those, how they can help society, and how you can turn them into a business.”

Collaboration was “at the heart of” the IoCT project, Dr Harish said.

He said: “Without collaboration it’s very difficult to develop these innovations, because the facilities you need, the expertise you need, the capabilities you need are all scattered. Coming together in a collaborative manner as we have done gives you access to all these facilities, expertise, and capabilities in a highly capitally efficient and resource-efficient manner. We have that ecosystem in the North East which you can tap into.”

Professor Lynne Corner, director of NICA and of citizen organisation VOICE® said: “We want the North of Tyne region to be the epicentre for this agenda. We want to see many businesses from all sectors, of all sizes coming together to say we can do this. We can create the products and services which are going to make a meaningful, lasting difference to millions of people.”

Professor Nic Palmarini, director of NICA, said: “The demands of our society are changing, and we must continue to innovate with the networks around us to drive social and economic change. We want to work with local businesses to build a world-class innovation ecosystem, providing economic and social opportunities and innovations, with a central focus on citizens and community that will mark this region as an international leader for IoCT innovation. We believe that our ability as a society to meet the needs and ambitions of our older residents more effectively – and critically that our solutions will be able to be transferrable nationally and internationally – will result in positive economic development and continued wellbeing of the ageing population.”