£1.7 million for new network to improve lives of people at risk of dementia

Human brain in the hands of a general practitioner or neurologist
Human brain in the hands of a general practitioner or neurologist

Funding of more than £1.7million will enable researchers at UCL to set up and lead a new national Dementia Network Plus.

The new network will be one of only four in the country and will aim to reduce dementia risk and improve people’s experience of living with dementia by supporting new projects and engaging with communities, with hubs in Wales, Scotland and England.

The Dementia Network Plus initiative is a strategic investment by the Economic Social Research Council (ESRC), the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), and Alzheimer’s Society.

The new network, which UCL will co-lead alongside the University of Exeter, is called "Sustainable Prevention, Innovation and INvolvement NETwork (SPIINNET). It will combine research power from 14 universities with specialist organisations and bring together individuals living with dementia, carers and family members, researchers, and people working for charities, health and social care services and industries.

SPINNET will unite existing networks and umbrella organisations and deliver a programme that will use and make connections between the experience, knowledge and resources of people across the network.

Activities will include workshops where people can meet to design research projects together, training events, funding innovative ideas, meetings to raise awareness about dementia and prevention, and annual conferences to share learning.

Network co-lead Dr Georgina Charlesworth (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences) said: " I’m delighted to be co-leading the SPIINNET Dementia Network. I hope that our work over the next four years will make a meaningful contribution to brain health, especially for those in at-risk or under-represented communities. We look forward to our work with partners across academia, industry, health and social care and the voluntary and charitable sectors."

Professor Chris Fox of the University of Exeter, who is co-leading the network, said: "We now have high-quality research which indicates that we could prevent up to 40% of dementia by taking meaningful action from midlife. This funding will enable our new Dementia Network Plus to action the latest research both to prevent dementia, and to work with people who have the condition to help them access early support and live the best lives possible."

SPIINNET will create a mutually responsive ecosystem which can strengthen understanding, involvement, and innovation in dementia prevention research. It aims to develop the quality of experience, effective knowledge and resources of people with dementia, families, communities, the NHS and social care.

In addition to UCL and the University of Exeter, the other universities involved in the project are: Bangor, Cardiff Metropolitan, King’s College London, East Anglia, Northampton, Nottingham, Oxford, Plymouth, Southampton, Stirling, Strathclyde, Sunderland and Worcestershire.

Associate Director of Research and Innovation at Alzheimer’s Society, Richard Oakley, said: "It is amazing to see such collaborative spirit driving research that tackles the biggest challenges for people affected by dementia.

"These Network Plus teams bring together academic, professional, and lived experience experts, to share knowledge and experience. They’ll work to develop innovative solutions across a range of important topics from care and diagnosis to inequalities within the workplace.

"We’re excited to see how these communities build and deliver much needed solutions to people affected by dementia".

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