UK Space Agency launches fund to develop hospitals of the future

A partnership between the UK and European space agencies could see 40 new high-tech hospitals built by 2030

A patient in a 'space-age' hospital with video conferencing tech

Space agencies from both the UK and Europe have challenged British tech companies to develop new services that could support high-tech hospitals of the future.

The UK Space Agency and the European Space Agency (ESA) have made £5 million of funding available through the Hampshire Together programme, a digital transformation project across the North and mid-Hampshire areas.

The funding is part of the UK government's Health Infrastructure plan, which includes provisions to build 40 new hospitals across England by 2030.

Tech firms have been asked to submit proposals for technologies and services that are inspired by space missions to a panel made up of experts from the UK Space Agency, ESA, and Hampshire Together. The panel wants to see not only ideas for the design and development of services to support new hospitals, but also the communities that surround them.

The initiative could potentially lead to new diagnostic tools, drones to track and deliver supplies, and also improvements to 'telemedicine' devices - technology used to support the care of patients remotely.

A new facility in Hampshire will be the first to use any services developed through the initiative and the ESA suggests this could even incorporate technologies pioneered on missions to the International Space Station.

"In the past but also more recently throughout the COVID crisis, the use of space technologies and satellite data has proven to be an essential driver for innovation in the healthcare sector to address existing and new challenges," said Arnaud Runge, a medical engineer at ESA's European Space Research and Technology Centre.

Throughout the pandemic, the UK Space Agency has funded projects to help the NHS deal with the pandemic. This has included satellite-enabled drones that carry COVID-19 samples, test kits, and PPE to speed up delivery times and reduce traffic.

Technologies supporting bowel cancer care, compact 3D X-ray machines, and apps that target people at risk of social isolation and mental health issues have also taken inspiration from technologies developed via the space agencies.

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