Five SMBS to benefit from £9m R&D injection into NHS initiatives

Projects such as AI-based voice technology and hand-held device monitoring will receive a first wave of funding

NHS cash injection

The UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has selected five health-care related technology projects to benefit from a 9 million funding boost through a government programme. 

Dubbed the Digital Health Technology Catalyst (DHTC), the aim is to boost innovation in the NHS, with a focus on technologies such as AI, machine learning and hand-held devices.

These industry-led initiatives are the first to benefit from the 35 million programme, with additional funding expected across the next four years.

"From using AI-driven voice technology to assess patient's health before seeing a doctor, to hand-held devices which observe health status and alert clinicians to treat high-risk patients, we are taking steps to ensure people are healthier for longer while saving the NHS money," said science and innovation minister Chris Skidmore.

"These advances in technology, across the UK, demonstrate our modern Industrial Strategy in action by harnessing the power of innovation to help meet the needs of an ageing society, and creating the high skilled jobs of the future."

One such project, developed by OpusVL, is dubbed eObs, which allows clinicians to monitor patients digitally through hand-held devices like smartphones and tablets. These devices would send automatic alerts to relevant specialists if patients are deemed 'at risk'. The aim of this project is to shorten the length of stay, reduce transfers, and referrals to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

Ufonia, meanwhile, working with the University of Oxford, aims to use voice technology to speak with patients over the phone in an autonomous and natural manner. In practice, this will assess the conditions of approximately 1,000 patients who have endured cataract surgery over the course of a six-month period.

Other projects include a device that aims to treat sleep apnoea, developed by Leicester-based Snoozeal, and a low-cost brain imaging technology created by Mind over Matter MedTech, based in Kent.

"The UK is a world leader in health innovation and the projects for which we have announced funding today showcase the very best of British knowhow," said Innovate UK interim executive chair Ian Campbell.

"Using breakthrough technologies such as AI and machine learning and deploying apps and hand-held devices, outcomes for patients can be immeasurably improved.

"Supporting these innovations is a key element of the government's Industrial Strategy and will create the industries and jobs of tomorrow."

The DHTC is funded through industrial strategy challenge fund, and forms part of the government's wider view to digitising the NHS. The organisation was established to specifically target SMBs and startups with funding to promote technologies that could benefit front-line care, as well as create efficiencies within the wider health sector.

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