Cross-border cooperation at NeurotechEU’s hackathon at KI
Creative ideas were born when the NeurotechEU alliance arranged a hackathon at Karolinska Institutet. “Activities like this highlight the value of having people from other disciplines and countries – and at different stages of their careers – engage in cross-border innovative processes with each other,” says KI president Annika Östman Wernerson.
On May 31 and June 1, students and researchers from nine countries took part in a hackathon arranged at KI by NeurotechEU, an alliance under the EU’s university initiative, with the help of Open Lab. KI has been an alliance member since 2020.
The aim of the event was to identify technical solutions to help young adults with early-stage mental illness.
The 56 participants were divided into eight interdisciplinary teams, who then had to apply “design thinking”, a problem-solving method involving a building a deep understanding of the target group and finding solutions that meet its needs through a process of trial and error.
App for mental health crises
The winning idea, Xinder, is an app based on the same principles as Tinder, but instead of searching for a potential partner, the app has one single function: an “emergency button” that the user can press if they find themselves in an acute psychiatric crisis. Volunteer support people in the vicinity will then be alerted so that they can come to the person’s aid.
“Being a little older and not having been brought up with the technique, I raised the importance of human interaction,” says 45-year-old Zoltán Mészar from the University of Debrecen in Hungary and part of the winning team. “The younger ones know the technology inside out, which made it a winning combination for us.”
According to the judges, the idea combines new technology with the need for human compassion. It is based on an app familiar to many young people today, which means that the users understand intuitively how it works. The fact that the idea can immediately be put into operation today and is relatively resource-light also gave it the competitive edge.
“Xinder has the potential to meet at least two needs at the same time: the need for support by an individual in crisis, and the human need to help others,” says Selene Cortes, panel member and head of office at the National Association for Social and Mental and Health.
Microchip reading dopamine levels
Another idea that came out of the hackathon was a microchip able to read dopamine levels and patterns of attention in people with video game addiction in order to discover what other activities leading to similar dopamine hits could serve as replacements.
The hackathon was arranged by NeurotechEU, an alliance of nine international universities on the theme of neuroscience and technology.
“Activities like this highlight the value of having people from other disciplines and countries – and at different stages of their careers – engage in cross-border innovative processes with each other, something that the winning team made good use of,” says KI president Annika Östman Wernerson.
NeurotechEU is a thematic network in the field of neuroscience and related technologies that aims to combine education, research and innovation. NeurotechEU comprises nine universities in as many countries: Radboud Universiteit (Netherlands), Universidad Miguel Hernández de Elche (Spain), Karolinska Institutet (Sweden), Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn (Germany), Boğaziçi Üniversitesi (Turkey), University of Lille (France), Reykjavik University (Iceland), Universitatea de Medicină și Farmacie ”Iuliu Hațieganu” din Cluj-Napoca (Rumania) and Debreceni Egyetem (Hungary).