Up to £50 million for new Centres of Excellence to deliver 21st Century healthcare - call open

Up to £50 million for new Centres of Excellence to deliver 21st Century healthcare - call open

New centres, using digital systems and artificial intelligence (AI), will help diagnose deadly diseases earlier and select the best therapies for patients through precision treatments.

Through the government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF), hospitals, the NHS, research organisations and industry can join forces to apply for a share of the fund, leading to the new centres starting their programmes across the UK at the end of 2018.

The ISCF is delivered by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). UKRI brings together the UK Research Councils, Innovate UK and Research England into a single organisation to create the best environment for research and innovation to flourish.

The investment marks a significant step in delivering on a major commitment in the Life Sciences Sector Deal (Dec 2017), which built on Sir John Bell’s Life Sciences Industrial Strategy (Aug 2017). 

Each of the new centres will enable companies, especially SMEs, to rapidly develop, test and implement products and tools (for example, the use of artificial intelligence to highlight potential disease in a chest x-ray) through the NHS. They will work with with academics, doctors, patients and health economists, providing quick learning about new treatments and medicines which can save and sustain lives.

UK Research and Innovation chief executive Professor Sir Mark Walport said: “Realising the potential of digital technologies and Artificial Intelligence is fundamental to creating a 21st Century healthcare system. Through these centres, we will develop the new tools our doctors and clinicians need to deliver excellent standards of patient care and we will sustain the UK as a global leader in healthcare innovation.”

Ian Campbell, UK Research and Innovation executive committee member and Innovate UK Interim Executive Chair, said: “The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund places innovation at the heart of an ambitious approach to solving some of society’s major challenges. 

“With these centres our goal is to develop and deliver diagnostic tools to identify diseases before symptoms appear and then create treatments that target them at the earliest possible point.

“Better information will lead to fewer debilitating illnesses, with more people living longer, healthier and happier lives. Ultimately this will give us the potential to prevent some diseases from happening altogether.”

The competition is a major element of the ISCF’s Data to Early Diagnosis and Precision Medicine challenge, placing early diagnosis and best treatments for particular patients at the heart of a national approach to better health. This builds on many recent healthcare technological advances, including in digital health and genomics, and on broader developments in data science and artificial intelligence.

Investing in large-scale genomics, coupled with image analysis emerging from these digital pathology and imaging centres, will drive new understanding of how complex diseases, such as cancer, develop.

New tools will then be developed to diagnose particular diseases at early stages and to guide development of new treatments effective for that particular type of disease. This type of precision medicine will ensure that the right patient gets the right treatment at the right time – saving lives and revolutionising healthcare.

To rapidly deliver benefits at scale and right across the UK, the successful centres will work collaboratively with the associated Digital Innovation Hub programme - controlled environments that will support research of clinical, genomic, biological and other multi-dimensional data.

Operational details for these hubs, to be managed by Health Data Research UK on behalf of UK Research and Innovation, will be confirmed by the autumn this year.

Overall, the Data to Early Diagnostics and Precision Medicine ISCF contributes to a number of long-term national industrial aims, including:

  • An increased UK share of the global diagnostic market from the current 3% to 5% (adding about £1.2bn pa. in ten years)
  • Growth of UK companies and inward investment in diagnostics, imaging, AI and pharmaceuticals
  • Consolidating the UK’s global leading position for therapeutic and diagnostic development, giving opportunities to all nations and regions of the UK

Details of how to apply for funding through this competition can be found hereThe competition is opens for consortia applications and remains open until Wednesday 1 August 2018.

Bids will then be assessed and awards made, allowing the centres to be developed and opened by the end of December 2018.