Four innovative projects which use technology to tackle chronic social issues like homelessness and food waste have been selected for Ireland’s first ever “thinktech” accelerator programme.
The €1 million fund, jointly supported by Google Ireland and Social Innovation Fund Ireland, is designed to showcase social enterprise and technical innovation.
Among the winning projects, chosen from 69 entries, was Dublin-based Foodcloud Hubs, which redirects surplus food from producers to foodbanks and charities using a simple app.
The Alone Platform, which uses various technologies to help older people live independently at home, and iScoil, which provides access to education for early school-leavers through online and personalised learning programmes, were also selected.
The three winning projects will each receive €210,000-€220,000 in financial and non-financial grants and join a five-month accelerator programme, starting in January, devised by Social Innovation Fund Ireland. This is supported by Google.org, the web giant’s philanthropic arm, and the Department of Housing.
An early-stage award of €100,000-plus membership of the accelerator programme was also granted to Space Engagers, a Dublin-based project which tackles homelessness via digital mapping.
"To be in a position to support and encourage innovative solutions to such fundamental social challenges is what good government is about," Minister for Housing Simon Coveney said at the awards ceremony in Dublin.
Deirdre Mortell, chief executive of Social Innovation Fund Ireland, said: "This is about making Ireland better. Creating Thinktech as the first-ever tech-for-good project in Ireland has been an exciting journey."
“Sixty-nine projects applied and these top-four projects demonstrate both excellence and innovation in using technology to solve Ireland’s critical social issues. Homelessness, early school-leaving, reducing food waste and food poverty, and aging well at home are all critical issues of our time,” she added.
Google.org made a €500,000 donation to the project, which was match-funded by the Government via the Social Innovation Fund Ireland. Created by the then government in 2013, the fund is designed as a philanthropic entity to support and nurture social innovation. Starting at €10 million the Government has committed to building it up to €50 million.