Rachel Martin caught up with Mindsum Director, Fareed Baloch to ask a few questions about his experience of the AI Foundry programme.

Company background (What’s your story? How did you get here?)

Mindsum is a social enterprise that is transforming the way we approach mental healthcare for children and young people. Our mission is to provide the right support and treatment at the right time, using innovative technology to deliver mental healthcare faster and at scale. We are passionate about creating new approaches to help children, young people, and their families improve their mental health and well-being. But we know that finding the right information, professionals, therapies, and tools can be a daunting task.

Our surveys and the lived experience of our founder and our team have shown that this is a common challenge for families dealing with mental health conditions. That’s why we have developed an all-in-one Personalised mental healthcare platform that simplifies the search for the right resources. Our platform provides credible information, connects users with the right mental health professionals, offers self-help tools – such as AI conversational bot – and strategies tailored to each individual’s needs. With the rise of smartphones, our platform puts the power to manage mental health in the hands of families across the UK.

What were the highlights of the course?

In November 2021, Mindsum participated in the AI Foundry program, which was organised by the University of Salford. The program proved to be extremely informative, insightful, and engaging. It covered a broad range of topics related to AI, such as the opportunities created by AI, business applications, innovation, project lifecycles, and intriguing case studies.

Impact - How has being on the course helped you as an individual?

The course was interactive where the participants were involved in different activities to think out of the box and explore the new possibilities for their organisations. The presentation from the AI experts from the University of Salford, such as Ambarin Khan, Richard Dron, Loghman Mohammadzadeh, helped me understand how I can adopt this exciting technology to improve and scale our service for the benefit of young people and families we support. Overall, the AI Foundry program was a fantastic opportunity for Mindsum to learn from industry experts and network with other like-minded businesses. It has undoubtedly enhanced Mindsum’s understanding of AI, and we look forward to leveraging this knowledge to further improve our operations.

Impact - How has being on the course and the further support through the technical assist helped your business? (For example, efficiency improvements, unique selling points)

The program helped us realise that we can develop a tool that uses Machine Learning to analyse conversations between our clients and our peer support workers and therapists over the phone, emails, and chatbot. This tool will enable us to understand mental health conditions better and assess them in (near) real-time, as well as identify any underlying comorbid conditions. Treating all challenges faced by someone is essential as leaving comorbid conditions untreated can lead to new challenges and create a vicious circle that many people struggle to overcome.

This led us to stage 2 of the AI Foundry program to build a multi-label classification model using NLP techniques. The model analyses anonymised conversations and data exchanged between patients, and caregivers and AI bot, allowing Mindsum to make better diagnosis recommendations within its web application. This will speed up the diagnosis process and enable our app to recommend right resources, self-help tools, therapies, and practitioners to our clients.

Is there anything you do now in your business that you wouldn’t have otherwise done?

Thanks to our participation in the GM AI Foundry program, we were able to roll out our new AI conversational bot in beta. We’re currently collecting user feedback to improve the bot’s safety and usefulness. In the next 12 months, we’ll be integrating our AI models, which were trained with the University of Salford’s assistance during stage 2 of the AI Foundry program. Overall, the program has been instrumental in helping us develop and refine our AI technology.

Would you recommend the GM AI Foundry to other people? Why?

Yes, I would recommend GM AI Foundry. I found the program valuable in gaining knowledge and insights about AI advancements, and the program’s comprehensive coverage makes it suitable for any business looking to broaden its perspectives and explore new AI opportunities. Additionally, the program is a great fit for individuals and businesses new to the field, offering a low-risk and safe environment for exploration.

Have you had any recent successes in your business as a result of the programme? (For example, winning new business, recruiting new staff)

Yes. We launched our AI conversational bot 6 weeks ago, and our AI bot has already sent over 17000 messages of support, advice, tips to approximately 2300 people seeking mental health help. As a nonprofit we offer this service free of cost.

Do you have any advice for other small to medium-sized businesses?

Whether you’re just starting out or well-established in your business, if you’re intrigued by the potential of AI to introduce new efficiencies or generate new revenue streams, you should consider joining the AI Foundry program. I’m sure, you will gain invaluable insights and skills to help you leverage the power of AI to transform your business and stay ahead of the curve. This program is led by world-class researchers who will provide you with comprehensive learning and practical support, positioning you for success in this exciting field.

What was the best thing about your partnership with the universities?

Research collaboration and expert advice in building new technologies on the foundations of higher ethical and societal standards.

Is there any follow-up help/support that you are looking for?

As a nonprofit organisation, we are committed to improving the mental health and well-being of young people and their families. To achieve this goal, we are seeking pro-bono advice and technical assistance to enhance our platform and services.