With killer robots, data breaches and surveillance, technology can often get a bad rep. But away from the doom and gloom, there are myriads ways in which tech is being used for good. The Vodafone Techstarter Awards is aiming to recognise – and reward – such instances.

Yesterday, the telecommunications giant announced the 12 shortlisted finalists of its inaugural awards. Technologies range from virtual reality, artificial intelligence to agritech – all harnessed for the benefit of humanity.

There will be multiple winners in different categories who will share a £300,000 prize fund, as well as access to industry and technology expertise from Vodafone and the Social Tech Trust, a charity dedicated to supporting socially motivated tech ventures.

With the funding and advice, Vodafone aims to ready the winners’ prototype to go to market.

“We believe some of the biggest challenges in society can be addressed using technology and innovation,” said Anne Sheehan, enterprise director at Vodafone UK.

“Vodafone Techstarter is about recognising and celebrating how UK start-ups are helping shape society for the better; we want to empower small businesses to truly make a difference in society.

“I’m really excited to meet the finalists and see first-hand the impact their ideas and innovations could have.”

The winner will be announced at the Vodafone Techstarter Awards ceremony on the 7 February.

Here are the shortlisted finalists in full:

Alexandra Rose Charity – Rose Vouchers for Fruit & Veg Project (RVP)

Through the use of vouchers for fresh fruit and veg, the Surrey-based charity supports families on low income to avoid food poverty and provide access to a healthy diet. In 2018 it launched the Rosie App, which digitises the reimbursement of Rose vouchers for participating retailers.

Code 4000 UK CIC – Global Prison Curriculum Build

The Hampshire-based firm provides vocational training in computer programming with a view to enhancing the employability of ex-offenders, and to help to reduce reoffending.

Full Fact – Automated Fact-checking

The London fact-checking charity was founded in 2010 and has become a highly reputable voice among the internet’s fog of disinformation. In November 2018 it announced it was using technology to automate some of its fact-checking in real time. More recently, it has partnered with Facebook to try and tackle its fake news problem.

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The Church of England’s Children’s Society – Reality Check

The London charity pioneers the use of immersive virtual reality environments to help children manage and overcome anxiety. VR has increasingly been explored as a solution to the growing demand for mental health treatment.

The Integrate Agency CIC – Padlock

An online platform connecting businesses with freelance cybersecurity powered by up-skilling lone parents in marketable cyber skills.

Wayfindr – Wayfindr

The London-based social tech non-profit gives visually impaired people the power to navigate complex indoor environments independently through the use of smartphone technology and high-quality user experience standards

BfB Labs – a mobile game to tackle anxiety

By combining the most effective elements of cognitive behavioural therapy with an immersive gaming experience, BfB labs is also employing tech to tackle mental health.

Good.Loop Ltd – Good.Loop

Good.Loop is the antidote to all of the targeted ad horror stories of recent years. The ethical video ad platform enables brands to connect social purpose with better viewer experience and better ad performance.

LettUs Grow – LettUs Grow

The Bristol form designs aeroponic farming technology and farm management software for indoor and vertical farms to help deliver higher crop yields and reduce the environmental impact of agriculture.

Read more: Brexit food security: An opportunity for vertical farming?

BlakBear Ltd – BlakBear Agri

The second agritech finalist, BlakBear Agri uses new sensors and software to increase the yield farmers can get from their land to feed a growing world sustainably. It combines electrochemical sensing innovations with statistical algorithms to understand soil nitrogen levels, and provide optimal nitrogen fertilisation instructions.

Walk With Path Ltd – Path Feel

The Essex-based startup is providing assistance to those at risk of falls, such as those with Parkinsons or peripheral neuropathy. A shoe insole acts in real time to its users’ needs by vibrating in response to pressure, resulting in the user being able to feel the floor and achieve balance, as well as tracking walking to aid diagnosis.

Alice SI Ltd – bringing transparency to social funding

Alice SI’s decentralised social impact platform is built on the Ethereum blockchain. It helps social organisations run projects transparently through its use of smart contract-based incentives, ensuring their impact is independently verified.

Vodafone Techstarter Awards: “A positive contribution to people’s lives”

Ed Evans, CEO of Social Tech Trust said: “It’s fantastic to see such an inspiring group of social tech innovations make the Vodafone Techstarter shortlist. All of them are driven by social purpose and are making a positive contribution to people’s lives.

“We look forward to working with the winning teams to help them grow and scale their social impact.”

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