Health tech: UK announces Digital Health Catalyst competition winners

Health tech: UK announces Digital Health Catalyst competition winners

A number of breakthrough technologies to revolutionise UK healthcare are a step closer to becoming reality this morning following a national competition, according to a government announcement.

Under round two of the Digital Health Catalyst competition, winning projects will collectively receive over £17 million development funding from Whitehall, via the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, managed by UK Research and Innovation.

A GPS app to track where porters and available beds are in hospitals, 3D printing technology for drug pills, smartphone apps to improve the treatment of wounds, research to enable antibodies to be taken orally, and prototype skin patches that deliver a wide range of medicines are just some of the innovations being developed under the scheme.

Projects are based throughout the UK, including Devon, Cumbria, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cardiff, Manchester, Oxford, Cambridge, and London.

Roll call of winners

Winners of the Digital Health Catalyst competition to date include:

Satalia. Working with Great Ormond Street Hospital, London, the startup will use artificial intelligence (AI) to schedule operating theatre use linked to downstream bed availability on intensive care units and wards. Satalia is an innovator in others ways, too: it is a prototype leaderless organisation that pools expertise internally using AI, rather than follows a traditional, top-down management structure.

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

Kinosis, working with UCL Hospitals NHS Trust, London, 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 – aka the ‘Intelligent Operating Room’.

Location specialists Navenio, 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”, according to the government.

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

Meanwhile, winners of the Medicine Manufacturing round two challenge fund competition include:

Biotech startup FabRx in Ashford, Kent, is developing a 3D printing process to manufacture pharmaceutical pills. The system will enable the desktop production of medicines with doses tailored to individual patients, potentially combining several medicines into a single tablet.

Intract Pharma in Cambridge is testing a new technology that will allow antibodies to be taken orally, rather than through invasive injections.

Transdermal treatment specialist Medherant in Coventry, which is developing a new technology that should greatly increase the range of medicines that can be delivered by skin patches. This may be particularly suitable for patients where traditional tablets are difficult to administer – such as very small children or the frail and elderly.

Policymakers speak

Business secretary Greg Clark said, “Technology is revolutionising industries across our economy, and new innovations play a key role in advancing our healthcare sector to make sure people are living longer, healthier and happier lives.

“By pooling the expertise of the public and private sectors, as highlighted through the Life Sciences Sector Deal and the modern Industrial Strategy, we are making every opportunity to reach our full potential in finding new discoveries and technologies to diagnose illnesses earlier that could lead to more lives being saved.”

Ian Campbell, executive chair of UK Research and Innovation at Innovate UK, added: “The projects we have funded today aim to make a real difference for patients and clinicians. They represent the very best of British innovation, focusing on improved patient outcomes and driving efficiency.

“The UK health sector is thriving, with SMEs playing a crucial role. By supporting this sector, as part of the government’s modern industrial strategy, we can ensure we remain global leaders in health innovation and create the jobs of tomorrow.”

Via the new Industrial Strategy, the government has said it is committed to embracing emerging technology to transform industries and increase productivity, create new skilled jobs, and improve living standards.

Matt Hancock, former secretary of state for DCMS and now secretary of state for Health and Social Care, said: “Innovative technology has the potential to truly transform healthcare for patients and staff. From artificial intelligence to VR to live tracking of hospital beds and equipment, there are so many ways in which the NHS is embracing tech.

“We are determined to make the NHS the most technologically advanced healthcare system in the world and today’s prizes will help progress towards that goal.”

Internet of Business says

Round three of the Digital Health Technology Catalyst competition is now open. Under it, SMEs can apply for a share of £1 million for feasibility studies to develop new digital technology solutions to healthcare challenges.

Also on the table is £8 million for collaborative industrial research and experimental development projects that meet the same aims.

Plus: UK announces UK cyber cadet force

In related UK news, the government has announced a new scheme to help develop “the next generation of cybersecurity experts”.

The Cadets CyberFirst programme, delivered by Ministry of Defence cadet organisations and the GCHQ National Cyber Security Centre, aims to equip over 2,000 school pupils a year with the skills and expertise to become future leaders in cybersecurity.

Over £1 million will be invested in the programme each year, giving cadets the opportunity to learn how to protect systems connected to the internet from cyber attacks.

The scheme will also offer a ‘train the trainer’ course, according to the government, which will teach more than 50 Cadet Force Adult Volunteers so they can deliver training in the future.

The new initiative was announced as the Defence Secretary revealed plans to increase the number of cadets in schools to 60,000 by 2024.