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Innovate UK provides £17 million for digital tech in healthcare projects


Mark Say Managing Editor

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Innovate UK has allocated funds to support projects using AI, virtual reality, digital visualisation and smartphone apps to provide new types of healthcare.

The national innovation agency is making over £17 million available with UK Research and Innovation – the body that brings together research initiatives – from the latest round of the Digital Health Catalyst competition.

The news comes alongside an announcement that the two bodies are putting up £9 million to support a further round of ideas for the use of digital tech in healthcare.

Among the private sector winners of the competition is Satalia, working with Great Ormond Street Hospital, to use AI to schedule the use of operating theatres linked to downstream bed availability on intensive care units and wards.

Medical Data Solutions and Services, working with Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, will deliver a programme using smartphone apps to help healthcare professionals and patients monitor and improve treatment of long term complex wounds.

Kinosis, with UCL Hospitals NHS Trust in London, will use AI and digital visualisation to improve surgical support in the form of an ‘intelligent operating room’.

Navenio and the University of Oxford will work on systems to track the location of porters and equipment in a hospital.

Finally, Cadscan and Chester Hospitals Trust will deliver a virtual reality platform using headsets to help people recover after a stroke.

Transformation potential

Secretary of State of Health and Social Care Matt Hancock said: “Innovative technology has the potential to truly transform healthcare for patients and staff. From artificial intelligence to VR to live tracking of hospital beds and equipment, there are so many ways in which the NHS is embracing tech.

“We are determined to make the NHS the most technologically advanced healthcare system in the world and today’s prizes will help progress towards that goal.”

Innovate UK is making the next round of money available as part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

It said it is looking for projects that span a variety of technologies, markets and healthcare needs and improve on the current health and care system.

The organisation is running two competitions, with businesses able to apply in either depending on the stage of their project. One will provide up to £1 million for feasibility studies, while the other will make up to £8 million available for collaborative research and development.

Tech possibilities

It has highlighted its interest in using a number of technologies for healthcare, including virtual and augmented reality, AI and machine learning, the internet of things, and data analytics and security.

The proposals could be for use in a clinical or non-clinical setting and support roles such as clinical decision making, improving access to healthcare, improving the patient experience and overcoming privacy challenges.

The competition is open to SMEs until 31 October. They can be working alone or with NHS and other public sector organisations, charities and universities.

Projects can last up to 24 months and have total costs of between £300,000 and £1 million, with the funding available to cover up to 70%.

Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0

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