The Government has announced it is ploughing £197m into the development of first-of-a-kind technologies that will speed up access to new drugs and medical treatments.
Announced by Business and Energy Secretary, Greg Clark, the cash comes from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF), which is committing over £1billion worth of funding over the next four years.
As we leave the EU, we are determined to help Britain’s innovators compete with the best and seize the opportunities ahead, and this money will help advance our position as a global leader in developing cutting-edge technologies
And it includes the further development of new 3D technologies to help treat patients with a variety of medical conditions.
Healthcare and medicine is one of six key focus areas being focused on, with cash also going towards improvements in robotics and artificial intelligence; batteries for clean and flexible energy storage; self-driving vehicles; manufacturing and materials of the future; and satellites and space technology.
The funding allocations are designed to help deliver a step-change in the UK’s ability to turn research strengths into commercialised products.
Clark said: “As part of our Plan for Britain; this Government wants to create a modern Industrial Strategy to support the key sectors of our economy and spread jobs, prosperity, and opportunity around the whole country.
“Through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund we will provide an enormous boost to our world-class research and development sector to help turn brilliant British innovations into new businesses and good jobs.”
Addressing the UK’s productivity gap is key to raising living standards and ensuring we are match fit to compete in the global economy
He added: “The UK is home to some of the world’s-best innovators at the very forefront of global excellence.
“The funding I am announcing, providing hundreds of millions of pounds of support to develop the next generation of technologies across a range of sectors, shows our determination and commitment to making sure the UK remains at the very forefront of research innovation for years to come.”
And The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, said: “Addressing the UK’s productivity gap is key to raising living standards and ensuring we are match fit to compete in the global economy.
“As we leave the EU, we are determined to help Britain’s innovators compete with the best and seize the opportunities ahead, and this money will help advance our position as a global leader in developing cutting-edge technologies.”
To hit the ground running, Innovate UK has confirmed that it will be supporting a £10m first wave of projects through the ISCF in each of the six areas with a number of smaller projects, starting this year.
By announcing these first challenges we are giving businesses the green light to start finding solutions to some of our major societal and industrial challenges
Thirty-five projects have been selected for funding, with innovations ranging from fast chargers for electric vehicles to using 3D scanning technology to improve care for hospital patients.
The 3D scanning technology is being developed by Chester-based, Cadscan, and is a novel, non-invasive diagnostic platform to assist in wound categorisation, treatment planning, and monitoring of healing.
Designed specifically for non-specialist use in a primary care setting, it would enable more-consistent diagnoses and treatment and will contribute to lower healthcare costs, faster rates of healing, less incorrect use of antibiotics, and greater quality of life for patients with long-term health conditions.
The investment in Artifical Intelligence could also benefit healthcare services.
Mark Barrenechea, chief executive of OpenText, explains: “In the healthcare sector, technology has already been used to update patient records, improve care delivery and streamline processes.
“Yet AI is increasingly being heralded as a technology to achieve further breakthroughs in the sector.”
He added: “AI and machine learning are becoming more powerful, But, no matter the benefits, AI use cases will be limited if British patients are not comfortable with the technology.
“However, technological advances have led to a growing level of trust among British citizens when it comes to AI and healthcare.
Technological advances have led to a growing level of trust among British citizens when it comes to AI and healthcare
“In one recent report, PwC revealed that over a quarter of Brits would now trust robots over doctors with heart surgery.
“This belief in AI is mirrored across the healthcare sector at a much wider level.
“OpenText research revealed that nearly two in five - 38% - UK consumers would trust the medical diagnosis given by AI; and just over 1 in 10 - 11% - said they would trust the diagnosis of AI more, or just as much, as a doctor’s diagnosis.”
Chief executive of Innovate UK, Dr Ruth McKernan, said: “By announcing these first challenges we are giving businesses the green light to start finding solutions to some of our major societal and industrial challenges and at the same time help us to fully realise economic impact from our world-class science base.”
To support delivery of the ISCF, the Government announced at the Spring Budget that it will invest £250m over the next four years to continue to build the pipeline of highly-skilled research talent. This will include an additional 1,000 PhD places, and support for new fellowships for early and mid-career researchers, both in areas aligned to the Industrial Strategy.
This will be supplemented with targeted investment to attract global talent from overseas to the UK.