UK government gives millions to boost digital health innovation

The UK government has awarded £17 million as part of a competition to identify digital health projects that it hopes could revolutionise healthcare.

Winners of the Digital Health Catalyst include developing artificial intelligence for bed availability in hospitals, 3D printing to create tablets and smart phone applications to improve the treatment of complex wounds.

As part of its industrial strategy, the government hopes to encourage innovation in medical technology, inciting economic growth by building on the country’s strength as a leader in life sciences research.

The catalyst is a cross-departmental initiative involving the departments of health and business, as well as the government agency Innovate UK, with funding allocated by UK Research and Innovation.

The projects are based across the country, in places as diverse as Cumbria, Devon, London and Edinburgh.

The funding, through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund managed by UK Research and Innovation, will also support efforts to enable antibodies to be taken orally rather than through invasive injections and increasing the range of medicines that can be delivered through skin patches.

Winners include Satalia, which is working with Great Ormond Street Hospital to use artificial intelligence (AI) to schedule operating theatre work to ensure there are suitable beds available in intensive care, or on wards.

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

Kinosis, working with University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, will use AI and digital visualisation technologies to improve surgical support and performance while assisting the standardisation of surgical procedures through better management of real-time information – the ‘Intelligent Operating Room’.

Navenio Ltd, working with the University of Oxford, will accelerate and enhance systems to track the location of porters and equipment in a hospital, for maximum efficiency – ‘an Uber for porters’.

Cadscan, working with Chester Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, will deliver a virtual reality platform using VR headsets to help people recover after a stroke.

The government also gave awards to the leaders in medicine manufacturing.

In round two of a challenge to find new ways of innovation in this area, FabRx, from Ashford in Kent got funding for a 3D printing process to manufacture tablets, allowing desktop production of the drugs with doses tailored to individual patients, potentially combining several medicines into a single pill.

Round three of the challenge has now opened, allowing companies to compete for a share of £1 million for feasibility studies allowing small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to develop new digital technology solutions to healthcare challenges.

They can also compete for a share of £8 million in collaborative industrial research and experimental development projects that develop new digital technology solutions to healthcare challenges.

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