The government of the United Kingdom recently announced the creation of an £86-million fund for new healthcare technology. The budget for this initiative will come from multiple sources, including the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Department of Health.
The funding is expected to spur the growth of innovation in medical devices, especially among lesser known companies and startups.
The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund under the BEIS, will receive £197 million in funding. In addition, over the next three years, the Department of Health will provide around £30 million in additional funding.
This project is unique for the UK due to its push for private sector tech to get involved with healthcare technology. It is supposed to be a catalyst for more projects which can be used in medical and associated fields. This in itself is an innovative approach to firing up healthcare tech. The traditional model, which is still being followed by most startups and government agencies around the world is to let tech companies create whatever they think is currently needed and hope that it gets picked up by the market.
In essence, this is putting the horse in front of the wagon. The fund is aimed at creating support for small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) and startups. The bulk of the fund, about £39 million will go to the Academic Health Science Networks, which will be used to assess the benefits of new technologies, especially those which are locally developed. Another £6 million goes to fund SMEs for testing innovative medicines, methods and technologies in the real world.
Help for Innovative Healthcare Startups
In most instances, tech startups and development have run to the ground with the need to develop during testing. Small companies usually do not have the resources to get their prototype to be tested to scale as needed before they can brought to market. This funding approach helps to find and identify which products have the best chance of success in the medical field, as well as to help with the last few steps prior to commercial production.
In medicine, there is a need for rigorous testing of technology and methods due to the lives which are on the line. There is a high bar to cross over when it comes to being a fool-proof device.
The Digital Health Catalyst, one of the recipient programs of the fund, is a direct result of a challenge thrown by the Accelerated Access Review, which in October 2016 published a recommendation to change how new products are chosen by the health and medical sector, and how the sector interacts with the tech industry. It also urged a new process of acceptance which follows the Paperless 2020 simplified app assessment process. In addition, the Review advocated more meaningful collaboration between the various NHS arms, their suppliers and patients in the development of health care products.
The funding is expected to spur the growth of innovation in medical devices, especially among lesser known companies and startups. It will also open the doors for different kinds of devices aimed at solving more obscure problems and diseases. The UK is well known as a leading foundation when it comes to invention not only in technology, but more specifically in the medical field. This impetus should be able to help the innovators further.