As part of the UK government's Health Infrastructure plan, up to £5 million of UK Space Agency funding is available to support a joint initiative with the Hampshire Together: Modernising our Hospitals and Health Services Programme, in order to utilise space technology to tackle healthcare challenges.
This project forms part of the government's plan to provide 40 new hospitals across England by 2030.
WHY IT MATTERS
Through this initiative, the hospital can use technologies pioneered on missions to Mars or the International Space Station to help treat patients and alleviate the workload burden placed on NHS staff.
In the past, health technologies inspired by space technologies have included real-time diagnosis of bowel cancer, the development of more compact 3D X-ray machines, improved remote diagnostics and an app identifying people at risk of social isolation and mental health issues.
The space-enabled services can also adopt the techniques and tools from the UK's space sector such as logistics by tracing goods or using drones, improved hospital parking and increased tele-rehabilitation.
The project is supported by the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Space Solutions, through their Business Applications programme. The UK continues to be a member of the ESA, which is independent of the EU, having invested a total of £374 million per year in November 2019.
A panel of experts, including representatives from the UK Space Agency, Hampshire Together and ESA, will assess the proposals for how space-derived technologies can contribute to new hospitals. The successful projects will be integrated into new facilities, as well as the wider health system.
Amanda Solloway, UK science minister, said: "The UK is a world leader in using space technology and data to tackle the challenges we face on Earth, and this initiative is another example of how one of our most thriving sectors is driving improvements in everyday life.
"As we build back better from the pandemic, I am confident that UK businesses large and small will come forward to produce some truly awe-inspiring ideas to help design this space-age hospital, support our heroic NHS staff and ultimately save lives."
THE LARGER CONTEXT
Last year, the UK Space Agency joined the effort to support the NHS response to the COVID-19 pandemic with the announcement of a £2.6 million fund for the development of tech solutions for some of the biggest challenges created by the crisis.
ON THE RECORD
Matt Hancock, UK health secretary, said: "This trailblazing collaboration – bringing together exceptional scientists from the UK Space Agency and Hampshire Together – will help us apply space age innovations to building hospitals of the future.
"The UK is unashamedly pro-tech and these government-backed medical advancements will give our amazing NHS access to some of the most innovative technologies."
Tony Mears, associate director of innovation for the Hampshire Together programme, said: "We are delighted to be working with the UK Space Agency as part of our programme. It opens up new opportunities for us in terms of innovation and technology and shows our commitment to incorporating new ideas into our plans for the future.
"The UK Space Agency has really helped the NHS to overcome the challenges posed by COVID-19 and we are excited to see how we can use this innovation-by-nature sector to help provide the best health and care services for people across Hampshire in the future."