Calling Croydon’s EdTech start-ups and investors

In September, we hosted Croydon Digital Talks: Future Tech Talent, which featured UCL EDUCATE's Koby Yogaretnam. Koby's talk went down a treat so he offered to write a snippet for readers who couldn't make the event.

UCL EDUCATE is a unique London-based accelerator aimed at supporting EdTech start-ups and innovators, and has become an international model for how education technology should be designed. You’re can register your interest to take part in the next round, starting in 2020, or read more about the programme below.

The programme launched 3 years ago from the vision of its creator and mastermind – and now director – Professor Rose Luckin. At a time of huge growth and pace of change in the technology industry, she spotted the need to give structure to the way that educational technology (EdTech) was being developed. Her vision eventually took the shape of a triangle that linked innovators, with educators and researchers, known on the programme as the Golden Triangle.

Professor Luckin, who is professor of Learner Centred Design at the UCL Knowledge Lab, believed that these 3 groups had to work collaboratively if technologists were to create digital teaching and learning tools that were robust, effective and fit for purpose.

What makes the EDUCATE programme different from other accelerators is that developers base their ideas and innovations on research into what is proven to work.

Fast forward to today and the programme has helped more than 200 companies to develop and to produce commercially viable products and services used by teachers and students in schools, colleges and universities – and even by practitioners in health services – all over the world.

By working directly with educators, the companies can observe how their products interact with educators and learners, and to finesse any deficiencies and gaps in effectiveness. They also carry out their own research into how their products work, which has led in some cases to a re-think or re-design of their concept. UCL EDUCATE gives them a safe and supportive space in which to try things out and to really get to the core of what they’re trying to achieve.

At the core of the EDUCATE programme, and its unique selling point as an academically led accelerator, is the interaction of the participants with the most rigorous and up-to-date pedagogical evidence base. At a time of constrained school budgets, educators need to know that they’re spending their money wisely. The immersion into world-class research helps to inform technologists about what works in teaching and learning, so they produce EdTech that is useful, purposeful and effective.

Upon completion of the 3-month programme, each participating company is eligible to apply for an EdWard, the programme’s own quality assurance kitemark. To date more than 100 companies have been rewarded in this way, either at Evidence-Aware or Evidence-Applied level, giving them an additional means of demonstrating that their product has been thought-through, researched and tested.

Going forward, and with its initial three-year round of funding approaching an end, the UCL EDUCATE is facing new challenges. Increasingly, the companies we work with are experimenting with new and more exciting technologies, such as artificial intelligence. We all need to keep abreast of these developments and are currently in the process of taking the programme forward with a new look and sense of purpose. Just like the technology itself is in a constant state of flux and innovation, so we are looking ahead to ensuring we continue to offer the industry a world-class programme that meets the needs of this important and burgeoning sector, both in the UK and globally.

If you’re a business or an investor, you can stimulate innovation is by investing in entrepreneurs. Investing doesn’t always mean departing with hard cash – it can also mean mentoring. This is something money cannot buy and only requires time commitment from experienced business leaders. Whether money or mentoring, established businesses have the opportunity to give entrepreneurs the backing they need to continue to create, disrupt and innovate.

So, my call to action for business owners in Croydon that have been there, done that and got the T-shirt is to reach out to Croydon Digital or send me an email, and we can connect you with the next generation of entrepreneurs that are seeking the advice that you can provide and will remain invaluable to their future successes.

You can register your interest on our website and we will keep you up to speed with our relaunched EDUCATE programme going into 2020. We look forward to hearing from you.

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