Funding will enhance tech fight against child sexual exploitation

Mike Todd and Geseth Garcia

Bolton-based EdTech firm Near-Life has received a £240,000 cash boost to super-charge its immersive police training software with the help of Greater Manchester Police.

It will use the Innovate UK cash to bring its products to market early next year and eventually target police forces globally.

Near-Life, which employs 12 staff at its University of Bolton base, specialises in delivering immersive technology solutions to support realistic, online learning.

The tech provides immersive, role play-style training which enhances engagement and knowledge retention at a fraction of the cost of traditional scenario-based learning.

The company, founded by husband and wife team Mike Todd and Geseth Garcia in 2015, has used its cutting-edge tech to support sectors from international aid workers to ambulance service personnel and business professionals.

The new project will focus on creating more complex, gamified simulation technology to support complex investigations, developed in close partnership with Greater Manchester Police and the initial focus will be on designing a new pilot course in the fight against child sexual exploitation.

Mike said: “With the ongoing pandemic it’s more critical than ever that organisations are able to access immersive technology that can help deliver realistic, remote training.

“We have been working closely with GMP to develop this project that will enable officers to better test potential decision-based outcomes around complex investigations, improving problem solving and decision making in a safe learning environment.

“The technology has the ability to better track performance and learning based outcomes, supporting an improved knowledge base and sharing of best practice.”

With Innovate-UK support the development will be accelerated with product launch aimed for 2021, two years ahead of target.

The tech can also be rolled out to other areas such as the fire service and the insurance sector, wherever complex investigative scenarios can benefit learning.

Co-founder Geseth said: “Following on from our successful fundraise last year, this is a positive time for the company and it’s an exciting sector to be in.

“We’re pleased to get the funding which will allow us to scale at a rapid pace and proceed with our ambitions to become a lead provider in interactive immersive learning.”

Superintendent Gareth Parkin, from Greater Manchester Police, said: “Within GMP we have a commitment to constantly improving our learning and are always looking to explore the potential of innovative solutions that can help keep our communities safe.

“The funding from Innovate UK will enable us to work with Near-Life on this pilot project as we look to different ways of how digital simulations can support our work in tackling child sexual exploitation.”