A mixture of both undergraduate and PhD students, Rhys Comissiong, Robin Hamer, Rachel Chung, Will Jephcote, Peter Waters and Nick Johnson were announced as the recipients of a £12,500 cash prize to implement their idea further.
They created Pronto - A ‘smart service’ that helps to increase the mobility of the elderly population by providing an intelligent ‘care from a distance’ platform.
The platform supports family carers by providing access to a network of volunteer carers that can assist their loved ones, at times when they are unable to do. The family carer can set a task for the volunteer carer, who in return gains ‘skills’ and qualifications.
The team commented: "Our aim is to motivate students to get involved with the community. We hope this brings together different people across generations and helps tackle problems such as social isolation and reduced access to mobility services.
“With the ongoing support from Loughborough University and additional funding from Ford Fund, we are presented with a great opportunity to further develop the idea which we hope will one day be used by communities across the UK."
Two other teams were awarded £5,000 each to support the development of their products and services too – Uovo with ‘The Caterpillar Club Walking Bus’ and YOO with Shared Shopping System Design.
The Caterpillar Club is a service that enables parents that do not live within walking distance of their children’s school to park and drop their kids at designated spots, where they will be collected by volunteers and walked to school, and ‘YOO’ is a ‘shared shopping system’ that enables elderly shoppers to conveniently transport their shopping around town with a functional, adaptable card operated, shopping trolley which shows convenient information such as store discount offers.
Overall, ten student teams took part and suggested initiatives that would provide mobility solutions to society.
The competition was first launched by Loughborough academics and Ford Fund representatives in November 2018.
These representatives and academics were also joined by Maisie Goldney and Daniel Gimeno Ferrer from Ford Mobility to judge the submissions and attend the awards ceremony.
Speaking about the winning product, Ford Fund Manager for Ford of Europe, Debbie Chennells, commented: “The winning product, Pronto, was essentially about helping the mobility of dependents by giving them care from a distance.
“That project had a number of different elements to it which we liked; their prototype concept was very advanced and innovative, they’d done a lot of research and also considered things like cyber security, the legalities, and the contract arrangement between the family carer and the volunteer carer, all of which made this proposal stand out.”
Maisie from Ford Mobility Solutions said: “When we first received the applications, we were blown away with the quality of work that had been done, from the research to the actual products that had been designed. It’s been really great to see what the students have developed.”
Mike Schmidt, Director of Education and Community Development at Ford Motor Company, added: “We are working a lot more these days to empower college students to create and scale social enterprises that help make people’s lives better. You never know how much of a good fit that’s going to be with our partner universities, but the students at Loughborough took to this challenge immediately and just fell right into it and produced some great examples of innovative social enterprises.”
As part of the challenge, the Ford Fund was offering £22,500 of funding to support students who came up with realistic, sustainable and affordable urban mobility solutions which can make a difference to society.
“The 2019 Ford Fund Smart Mobility Challenge has provided undergraduate, postgraduate and research students from Loughborough Design School with an exciting and challenging real-world design brief,” said Dr Val Mitchell and Dr Stuart Cockbill from the Design School.
“Hosting the Smart Mobility challenge on behalf of the Ford Fund has given our students the chance to tackle real-world issues by getting ‘into the wild’ to collaboratively design with our local community. Experiences like this greatly enhance the employability of our students by demonstrating their ability to research, ideate and deliver innovative solutions to real-world problems.”
The challenge was part of a wider partnership between Loughborough University’s Philanthropy Team and the Ford Fund, which has seen them donate nearly £250,000 to support various initiatives across the University since 2012.
These include Formula Student, providing Blue Oval Scholarships to students and hosting residential trips for school students at the University.