A BOLTON software company has received a £240,000 cash boost to develop training to help police in the fight against child sexual exploitation (CSE).

Based at the University of Bolton, Near-Life employ 12 staff and specialise in delivering immersive technology solutions to support online learning.

The technology allows users to experience immersive, role-play style training rather than more costly traditional scenario-based learning.

The company, founded by Mike Todd and Geseth Garcia in 2015, has used cutting-edge technology to support everyone from international aid workers to ambulance service personnel and business professionals.

The new training tools will be developed in close partnership with Greater Manchester Police with the initial focus on designing a pilot course in the fight against CSE.

Mike said: “The new funding will allow us to develop enhanced police training to better prepare officers for the complexity of modern policing against a backdrop of continued budget cuts. With the ongoing pandemic, it’s more critical than ever 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.”

The cash, from Innovate UK, will be used to fast track the design process and bring the company’s products onto the market in early 2021 and allow them to eventually target police forces globally.

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

“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.”

Supt Gareth Parkin, from GMP, added: “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.”