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Why Britain is leading the way in 'tech for good'

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Britain is at the forefront of ethical, socially-responsible technologies Credit: Getty Images

Tracking and treating Parkinson’s like Medopad. Developing lasers to monitor climate change like M-Squared. Designing vertical farms that could transform food production like LettUs Grow. Using distributed ledger technology to prevent the sale of blood diamonds, like Everledger: technology is filled with companies run by people who think they can change the world for the better. 

And Britain, Europe’s unrivalled tech-hub, is home to a host of them. The companies above are here. As is Dr Faii Ong, the alumnus of Imperial College behind GyroGear, manufacturer of a gyroscope glove that aims to stabilise tremors associated with many debilitating diseases.

And Francesca Hodgson, co-founder of GoodBox, which aims to help charities keep up with the digital age, spend less on fundraising and more on good causes.

Or Amrit Chandan and Carlton Cummins, whose company Aceleron is developing sustainable lithium-ion batteries. 

They are among the hundreds of entrepreneurs demonstrating that Britain is at the forefront of ethical, socially-responsible technologies. 

And they and their companies, with more than 100 others, are all represented at the Telegraph Tech For Good awards, a ceremony to showcase some of the brightest emerging companies deploying their talent and expertise to make a positive impact – on health, education, in financial inclusion; on agriculture and the climate; for the elderly and disabled. 

The tech sector is welcoming more people than ever who choose to learn digital skills and become entrepreneurs

The drive to change the world for good through technology is not always straightforward. Too often, messianic tech chief executives spout babble and burn through cash spurred on by excitable boards or venture capitalists sure that they are on to the Next Big Thing. 

Sometimes noble intentions sour with success – as regulation and sheer size catch up with companies still run like the nimble, risk-taking start-ups they once were. 

Yet often the urge to improve our world through technology is an unalloyed, unashamed triumph, to be celebrated. 

Because the term “technology” is really a diversion. Certainly, there are endless debates about “What is a tech company?”, endless arguments about whether WeWork is a tech company or a simple landlord? 

And on the answer to those questions, billions of dollars can rest.

But for most founders of “tech” companies, technology is merely a means to an end, a way of taking a good idea and reaching large numbers of people more quickly and efficiently than ever before. A tool to change lives, potentially all of our lives, for the better  

We hope that the Tech for Good awards will present a welcome counterpoint to important reporting – much of it on these pages – of mismanagement or greed, of invasions of privacy or data loss, of killer robots and artificial intelligence determined to wipe humanity from the face of the planet.  

The big picture is that, while it still has well-documented problems with diversity, the tech sector is welcoming more people than ever who choose to learn digital skills – like coding – and become entrepreneurs.

The best and brightest from our top universities now consider founding their own start-up to be both cool and potentially lucrative – both financially and socially rewarding. Tech is a force for good. 

More than 100 companies demonstrating that ethos will gather in a fortnight in central London. Some are small, with revenues in the handful of millions; some are already significant, worth a billion dollars or more.  

But they all take a practical approach to solving real-world problems. Some, like Giving Streets, take London’s fintech dominance and turn it to philanthropic purpose, ensuring that we can still give to the homeless, say, even in a cashless age. 

Others, like Touch Surgery and Oxehealth, are from a healthtech sector where the UK also has great strength. With data processing specialists, health and fintech companies attracted the most venture capital investment in Britain in 2018.

Many such companies are breaking into markets that were once the preserve of state-backed behemoths. Open Cosmos, for example, is developing nano-satellites in the hope of providing access to orbit for researchers who need the data-rich analysis of Earth that altitude provides.

They are part of a space tech movement which, half a century after man first walked on the moon, shows the Cold War space race has given way to a democratisation of the heavens. 

The Telegraph salutes the ambition and dedication of all such entrepreneurs. We celebrate the vibrant, hard-working, pioneering efforts of founders who create jobs and opportunities for themselves and their co-workers, and their combined success in making innovative, transformative ideas, come true.   

They prove that in a sector often derided for its hubris, there is realism; scorned for its greed, there is charity; feared for its power, there is good. 

We look forward to announcing finalists and winners on October 24.

To explore the full agenda and secure your place alongside the UK's Tech For Good leaders, visit: telegraph.co.uk/technology/ live