Emergency call: NHS wants innovation from companies outside healthcare

England’s health service is offering up to £100,000 to fund new products to help ease the burden on urgent and emergency care services.

Pressure on services, including hospital Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments, has grown rapidly over the last decade, and is one of the greatest problems facing England’s NHS.

Now an NHS England-funded initiative is offering assistance to any companies which can develop new products and technologies to help improve and redesign care.

The Small Business Research Initiative for Healthcare (SBRI Healthcare) says it will work with companies and provide funding to develop innovation that addresses unmet health needs and helps the NHS save money.

“The NHS is looking at progressive and radical ways to reshape the way urgent and emergency care is delivered with vanguard sites leading the way in testing new solutions. With pressure on these services growing we want to ensure that the innovative companies are enabled to develop their ideas and solutions,” said Karen Livingstone, Director of SBRI Healthcare.

In the last year, SBRI Healthcare has launched 10 new clinically-led competitions and awarded £22.4 million to 60 companies to develop products focused on specific NHS unmet need.

It says it is keen for companies without any experience in healthcare to submit concepts – with the hope that fresh thinking from outside the field could produce brilliant new products.

“We welcome bids from all sectors and are particularly keen to invite companies working in non-health fields to consider whether the technologies they are developing could be applied to the challenges we face for urgent care,” added Karen Livingstone.

Among the products already being developed via SBRI Healthcare, many are medical devices or based on new software. These include a new nitric oxide dressing for diabetes patients with chronic leg ulcers, being developed by Edinburgh-based Edixomed, and a new smartphone app to help Parkinson’s disease patients track their disease, being developed by uMotif Digital Health.

SBRI Healthcare competition theme areas are chosen in partnership with the Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs), regional bodies which aim to bridge the divide between the NHS and commercial companies.

The new programme is directed by the Eastern Academic Health Science Network (EAHSN) on behalf of NHS England and the other regional AHSNs. Health Enterprise East is the management partner and supports the EAHSN to handle the applications, assessments and delivery against contracts.

If judged to be promising, projects move through a three-phased development programme. In the first two phases, products move from feasibility testing into prototype development, where contracts are worth up to £1 million over a year.

Phase three contracts are intended to accelerate product adoption, with up to a further £1 million over 12 months, providing the opportunity for validation in real-life NHS settings. While the public sector has the right to license the resultant technology, its intellectual property (IP) remains with the company, which SBRI says allows the businesses to grow.

This latest competition closes on 17 November 2015 with winners announced in March 2016. Special briefing events for businesses interested in the prize will take place on 13 October in Manchester and 21 October in Bristol.

Visit the SBRI Healthcare website here.

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