Two male workers in factory, one holding Surface laptop

Microsoft to support companies that can improve healthcare, manufacturing and environmental sustainability in the UK

Microsoft is offering support to UK start-ups that can improve the UK’s healthcare, manufacturing and environmental resources sectors.

The company is teaming up with the Social Tech Trust to launch its AI for Social Impact 2021 programme and is inviting entrepreneurs to apply.

It is looking for startups that are focused on two areas: healthcare, and manufacturing & environmental – two of the sectors hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. They must focus on the prevention and early detection of cancer and other conditions; revolutionising healthcare settings such as hopsitals; ensuring equitable access to healthcare; creating more sustainable supply chains; building the factory and workforce of the future; and transforming water and energy through renewables.

Successful applicants will embark on a four-month programme that offers everything from technical guidance to go-to-market and enterprise sales support, all designed to help them develop their businesses and achieve their visions. Microsoft, which does not take any equity in these firms, will provide up to $25,000 of Azure cloud services credits, expert advice, workshops and one-to-one sessions, and support to explore post-accelerator funding and investment options.

Amali de Alwis, Managing Director of Microsoft for Startups UK, said: “We are delighted to be launching the next chapter of our AI for Social Impact programme. This builds on the significant work Microsoft has undertaken and supported in the AI for Good space over recent years, and we are excited to meet the companies who will join us to continue the amazing legacy of previous cohorts.”

Tiernan Miles, founder of Hello Lamp Post, was part of the previous cohort. His company enables people to have playful conversations with street objects such as statues, benches and post boxes via text messages or popular conversation apps. For example, texting a special number on a sculpture in a park may start a conversation that includes the question: “what would you change about this area?” The person may reply “more cycle parking in the city centre”, which would be directly fed back to the local council.

The service is launched in conjunction with local authorities, developers and construction companies, and is a way for members of the local community to give feedback on issues in the area.

Speaking about his experience, Miles said: “The quality of start-ups in the cohort was impressive. It really helped that the companies were all at similar stages and not competing. This allowed everyone to open up and share experiences candidly, which is incredibly liberating for an entrepreneur. I found the workshops far superior to anything else that I have attended, and I was able to take something away from each one that added value. The quality of expertise we were exposed to and the support of the cohort were fantastic. We were all happy to help each other.

“I’m extremely thankful to have been part of the AI for Good programme and I’m excited to have Microsoft and Social Tech Trust as close advisors for the journey going forward.”

Andy Smith, Chief Partnership Officer at MiiCare, which aims to keeping the elderly safe, healthy and more connected in their own homes with personal AI, said: “The conversations we are now having with potential partners, customers and investors include knowledge and skills we gained on the programme. Even mentioning that we are part of the 2020 AI for Good cohort has a positive impact, as the programme has a very positive reputation.”

The AI for Social Impact 2021 programme is designed for organisations who are committed to achieving a positive impact on people and society.

Ed Evans, Chief Executive of Social Tech Trust, said: “COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on our health and our work, impacting people across the UK in different ways. As we begin our recovery, our attention turns to where technology can have the greatest impact on improving lives and communities in the areas hardest hit by the pandemic.  We’re looking for exceptional ventures with lived experience and a vision of a better future.”

Applications are open now and will close on January 15, 2021. To apply, click here to visit the AI for Social Impact Programme website.