UK government reveals £9m fund for digital healthcare ideas

Ministers will work with Innovate UK to allocate funds for inspiring innovations

Medical software on a tablet

The UK government is offering 9 million in funding to any UK businesses with ideas to develop digital technology solutions for healthcare.

The funding will be provided by UK Research and Innovation and delivered by Innovate UK and will be made available to UK businesses through the government's Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

Advancing new and novel digital technologies could significantly improve outcomes for patients and provide cost benefits for healthcare providers. The digital health technology catalyst aims to accelerate the development of digital health innovations and grow the sector.

Health-tech firm FundamentalVR is an example of the type of innovative ideas the project is looking for, having previously received some funding through the catalyst. The company is leading a project to develop a VR surgical training platform for students to practice and gain confidence before operating on people.

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Despite so many medical advances over the last 100-years, the teaching of surgery has not changed dramatically. The only way junior surgeons can practice today is by working on a dead body and each cadaver only allows for a limited amount of work before you can no longer use the body. 

"What we are doing is using virtual reality combined with haptic feedback, and that is a sense of touch - so you can see and feel a patient - to deliver a totally new way to experience surgical procedures," said Richard Vincent, founder of FundamentalVR. "And because it's digital, you can press the reset button each time and go again and again."

This competition is part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to deliver leading-edge healthcare in the UK. The government hope the 181 million funds will transform the way the country develops and manufactures medicines and other healthcare products, such as digital technologies, to get the right drugs and treatments to patients when they need them.

There are two competitions that businesses can apply into, depending on the stage of their project they could receive up to 1 million for feasibility studies and up to 8 million for collaborative research and development. The technologies the government suggest looking into are virtual and augmented reality, AI and machine learning, the IoT and data analytics and security.

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