UCL Centre for Digital Innovation


Affiniti AI: UCL PhD alumni pioneering digital mental healthcare

Founders Samuel and Nora Stern have translated their research into a commercial venture to address the constraints of generic chatbots in the realm of digital mental health support.

Affiniti AI Presentation

12 September 2023

Affiniti AI is on a mission to make digital mental health support more engaging and personalised. By leveraging Generative Conversational AI they developed a purpose-built AI model designed to understand the needs of each user and provide them with tailored support and guidance. 

Their participation in the CDI Impact Accelerator Programme enabled them to transform their functional prototype into a beta version product, which now serves as a demonstrator to clinics and investors.

The ultimate goal is to make their innovative solution accessible to a wider audience, thus positioning them to revolutionise the way people experience mental health support in the digital realm.

The challenge

Affiniti AI was established with the purpose of addressing the constraints of generic chatbots in the realm of digital mental health support. The healthcare industry faces a significant challenge with the ever-widening gap between the increasing number of individuals seeking mental health services and the limited availability of professionals. UK referrals to mental health services have surged by 44%, compared to a 22% (National Institute of Mental Health, 2023) rise in the number of practitioners (National Institute of Mental Health, 2023). This has necessitated the automation of affordable support, such as chatbots, to provide immediate support online. 

However, upon receiving an offer from a digital health platform to develop a mental health chatbot avatar, company founders Samuel and Nora Stern realised that conventional chatbots had technical limitations and involved expensive development processes. These chatbots were only capable of providing generic responses, failing to address questions in a contextualized manner. As a result, users quickly lost interest in the pre-packaged answers and disengaged with the app, rendering the chatbots ineffective as automated support tools.

The solution

Recognising the demand for affordable and automated, yet personalised, support service, Affiniti AI developed a specialised model tailored specifically for mental healthcare. This SaaS model is targeted at private clinics and workplace platforms that face challenges in scaling due to staff shortages, and it also holds potential applicability for the NHS. Harnessing the power of Generative AI, the platform enables digital mental health providers to scale the delivery of high-quality and personalised talking therapy support. 

By implementing this innovative solution, healthcare providers can enhance their services, providing patients with an enriched engagement with digital mental health support. Through personalised and contextually relevant responses, users benefit from an improved overall experience, resulting in more effective and meaningful interactions. Affiniti AI's generative AI solutions cater to digital mental health apps, teletherapy platforms, and therapy clinics, operating under a business-to-business model. The seamless integration of their model into mobile services and online interfaces provides companies with an efficient and streamlined approach to enhancing their automated conversational interfaces, effectively replacing traditional chatbot channels with the transformative capabilities of generative AI.

CDI Impact

Co-founders Samuel and Nora attribute the CDI as a fundamental factor in propelling Affinti AI to the next level. Firstly, the programme provided the company with advisory support, including solutions architects, who conducted a Technical Needs Assessment essential for designing the digital infrastructure to deliver the final product at scale. Secondly, the programme offered access to computer resources, through the partnership with AWS, which offered the company credits to use in their service platform. With these supports, Affiniti AI was able to understand the work to be done and have the resources to do it.

Furthermore, with a focus on the clinics and healthcare providers who are the end users of Affiniti AI's platform, their participation in the CDI programme has played a pivotal role in significantly enhancing the company's capacity to swiftly integrate customer feedback and iterate over their product with heightened speed and efficiency.
Samuel Stern, Co-founder, Affiniti AI summarises their experience at CDI:

“The CDI Impact Accelerator programme has provided us with a deep understanding of AWS services and how to utilize them effectively to meet our business requirements. This has enabled us to build a more robust and scalable technological infrastructure for our business. As a result of the CDI program, we were able to optimize our business processes and reduce operational costs through the use of AWS cloud solutions. It has also helped us improve our knowledge and understanding of cloud-based technologies, enabling us to make more informed decisions regarding our business's technical architecture.”