An education programme to help students to spend less time on screen – and more time living their lives – has won a coveted innovation award for Leeds alum Ryan Bell (Geography 2018).
“Soon after the pandemic started, I realised that all the time that I’d usually spend socialising, in the gym or playing football had been replaced by competitive gaming and social media,” says Ryan Bell (Geography 2018).
“The demands of this lifestyle quickly took a huge toll on my wellbeing. Its impacts included stress, low self-esteem, lack of empathy, and loss of focus and attention –all of which had knock-on effects for my work and personal life. I realised something had to change.”
Ryan’s search for a solution led him to develop Tech Balance, to help himself and others to balance the time they spend online with ‘real life’ activity. “It was really challenging to find viable sustainable solutions amongst the vague tips and trips and countless apps out there,” he says. “There wasn’t any one solution that describes the context of the crisis that we are facing or provided a program to make it easy for people to change their unwanted tech behaviours.”
Tech Balance addresses that by offering a curriculum and certification program that brings people together to make changing their unwanted behaviours simple, fun and achievable. Through a series of workshops, designed and run by students, it helps them find their own tech-life balance.
Its success led to Ryan winning a £5,000 award from Innovate UK’s Young Innovators programme, which gives inspiring young entrepreneurs the chance to take their business idea to the next level. Innovate UK provides a living allowance, a grant and tailored business support to help innovators turn their business ideas into a reality.
It has allowed Ryan to split his time between his job with Luton-based space technology consultancy Telespazio UK and developing Tech Balance still further. “Over the next year, I’m looking to work with early adopters including students and parents, as well as schools, colleges, and universities,” he says.
“I’m keen to deliver and receive feedback on a prototype of the Tech Balance course and community that I’m building, so it’s designed to really help students improve their relationship with technology.
“I feel really grateful and for this opportunity. It’s great to know that Innovate UK has confidence in me to take Tech Balance to the next level.”