Universities and science minister Chris Skidmore met with UCL researchers and entrepreneurs who are involved in developing a number of start-ups which are creating world-class EdTech products and services to help children and adults learn.

Mr Skidmore met over 20 London EdTech companies who are working with UCL researchers on a range of projects, from using AI to speed up language learning to building social confidence in school students.

The projects are part of a UCL programme called EDUCATE, which connects start-ups and business developers with leading experts in education and technology. It aims to use research-based evidence to develop 250 businesses which will help students and teachers and have a lasting impact in education.

The visit follows the recent announcement by Education Secretary Damian Hinds of the Government’s forthcoming EdTech strategy and £10 million fund to support innovative uses of technology in schools and colleges across England.

The EDUCATE programme was launched in early 2017 by Professor Rose Luckin at the UCL Institute of Education’s Knowledge Lab which is part funded by the European Development Fund and its partners BESA, FS6, Nesta and UCL Engineering and has attracted interest and inquiry from EdTech developers in the UK and overseas. To date it has worked with more than 170 start-ups, SMEs and entrepreneurs.

Professor Rose Luckin said: “We are delighted to have this opportunity to host Chris Skidmore at the UCL Knowledge Lab and to welcome him to the EDUCATE programme. EDUCATE has enabled EdTech entrepreneurs and start-ups to connect with our academics, who bring access to high-quality evidence, and educators, who support the design and piloting of EdTech products and services with their pedagogical expertise.”

“His visit could not be more timely, following the Secretary of State for Education’s recent EdTech investment plans and desire to harness the power of technology in schools. This is not only great news for technologists but also represents a call to action for schools to engage more fully in its development.”

During the visit to Mr Skidmore met with the founders of new companies including Little Bridge, Connect2Teach, Confident Beans and Interactive Scientific. With the support of UCL, these entrepreneurs are designing products which will help teachers and learners interact with digital platforms to help students work collaboratively, manage workload and build confidence and ability.

Emma Little, founder of Little Bridge, an on-line learning platform where children from all over the world can meet and chat to each other and, at the same time, learn English, said: “When we began developing Little Bridge, we were aware of the connection between learning, social media, and accessibility and affordability aspects of the product.

“We thought, for example, that the social aspect of Little Bridge would have a positive impact on children’s learning outcomes. EDUCATE gave us a framework to validate those hunches and to set up the right processes to develop new features based on solid research. We now feel clearer about what we are trying to do and how to evaluate learning.”

UCL President & Provost Professor Michael Arthur who welcomed Mr Skidmore to UCL along with Professor Luckin and Dr Celia Caulcott, UCL’s Vice Provost for Enterprise said: “UCL, along with other UK universities, is at the forefront of some of the greatest discoveries and innovations shaping our world today. We create and share knowledge that transforms lives and society. We are delighted to be able to showcase some of this work to the minister today.”

Becky Francis, Director of the UCL Institute of Education (IOE), added: “EDUCATE is a much-needed innovation and exemplifies the IOE’s concern to build policy and practice that is informed by research evidence. By bringing together the energy of EdTech start-ups with the wealth of expertise found among the EDUCATE team and IOE more generally, the EDUCATE project is helping EdTech entrepreneurs make a much more effective contribution to advancing learning.”