UK competition to support evaluation of digital health tech launching later this month

The goal is to help SMEs evaluate innovations in real-world clinical settings.
By Leontina Postelnicu
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Credit: Shutterstock/Piotr Swat

Innovators in the UK will be able to apply later this month for a share of £1.5m in funding through a competition that will be run by Innovate UK and the Office for Life Sciences to help SMEs build an evidence base for their medical devices, diagnostics and digital technologies.

The aim is to support developers in their efforts to get their products commissioned within the health service.

How it works

Innovate UK says projects relating to ageing, cancer, digital transformation, learning disabilities, autism, mental health, personalised care, and prevention will be prioritised, and the competition will open on 22 April and end on 3 July at midday.

SMEs will be able to choose between two project options, one to create detailed plans for an evaluation, with total costs of up to £50,000, or to run a study collecting clinical performance and cost-effectiveness data in NHS settings, with total costs of up to £250,000.

Products and services eligible for the competition have to be aligned with at least one priority area for the health service, as outlined in the NHS Long Term Plan published at the beginning of the year, have a CE mark, and be available for the NHS to buy, but marketed in the UK for less than five years.

Why it matters

It is well-known that entrepreneurs struggle selling to the NHS, and, since he was appointed last summer, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock has outlined on several occasions his ambition to remove barriers in the uptake and spread of innovations across the system.

“We will provide opportunities for innovators to develop and prove their ideas in clinical and ‘real world’ settings, enabling innovators to develop the evidence they need to access the NHS and giving the NHS confidence in the quality and impact of a product,” Hancock’s Future of Healthcare document from October, outlining his vision for digital, data and technology in health and care, reads.

On the record

Speaking at MEDinIsrael in Tel Aviv earlier this month, NHS director of digital development Sam Shah acknowledged the challenges innovators wanting to work with the NHS face.

“Our system’s complex. We’re made up of more than 15,000 organisations in the NHS. (…) We have more than 206 hospitals in the UK. And we have seven and a half thousand primary care providers spread out across England. It’s a complex ecosystem. It’s a complex environment for anyone to work in.

“It’s hard. You have to knock on every single door and try to convince those individual organisations of how your product, your service, your technology can make things better. But I say don’t give up. We have a system that’s in need and we certainly need your help,” Shah told delegates.

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