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Justin Tomlinson > The inclusive Technology Revolution

As Minister for Disabled People I have a wide range of responsibilities, but one clear focus – to improve the lives of disabled people.

Technology has huge potential to support disabled people in overcoming challenges they encounter in everyday life. These barriers are best understood by disabled people, and I am a great supporter of user-led solutions, tapping into the entrepreneurial spirit of budding designers.

This is why I am so positive about the Inclusive Technology Prize. We launched the prize in October 2014 and announced a shortlist of 10 finalists this summer, whittled down from more than 200 original entries. These finalists demonstrated extraordinary vision and each received £10,000 to develop a prototype and test their ideas.

An overall winner, to be selected next year, will receive a further £50,000 to help take their idea to market and, ultimately, change the lives of disabled people.

Some of the entries I have seen so far are incredible; they range from a wristband that will allow people to control and share useful data about themselves, to an innovative application that helps people living with disabilities to use household objects, making them more independent in their own homes.

The technology may be complex, but the ambition is simple: to harness the power of the latest advances and use it to address the barriers faced by disabled people on a daily basis. I want more entrepreneurs to focus their efforts on helping them lead more independent lives.

As a former business owner, I know the importance of getting the right support at the right time. This is where the help the prize offers, both financial and beyond, is so crucial, and I’m delighted that we can support these finalists to help take their ideas from the drawing board to reality.
This isn’t just about making Britain a better place for disabled people; it also makes great business sense, too. The combined spending power of disabled households, referred to as the ‘purple pound’, is estimated at around £200bn and growing. Who better to tap into this market than disabled entrepreneurs and inventors with a great idea?

Innovate companies are constantly looking to the future and asking about 'the next big thing', something that will change how we go about our lives. For new ideas we need new ways of thinking, and disabled entrepreneurs with different life experiences and perspectives are perfectly placed to identify these market opportunities. The finalists share an ability to see beyond the technologies of today to identify tomorrow's solutions.

This is a truly exciting and original project, limited only by the imagination of the applicants. Their drive and entrepreneurial spirit is an untapped resource waiting to deliver their big ambitions. If we can direct this energy towards inclusive technology, we can make a real difference to the lives of disabled people, their families and carers.
The Government’s support for this scheme shows how we can achieve great outcomes by supporting and harnessing the talent that is already out there, giving people the opportunity to thrive.

Justin Tomlinson is Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Disabled People and Conservative MP for North Swindon 

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