£86m digital health innovation fund

A new £86m government fund is to be made available for digital innovation in healthcare – including £35m for a new ‘digital health catalyst’ to promote startup innovation – the government has announced.

test tubesIn a significant boost for UK digital health, a new £86m digital innovation fund is to invest in innovative healthcare technology, including through a new £35m ‘digital health technology catalyst’ that will support SMEs that develop, test and integrate new technologies for the NHS.

The fund is being provided jointly by the Department of Health and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The digital health catalyst funding comes from the £197m industrial strategy challenge fund announced in April by BEIS secretary of state Greg Clark.

The biggest chunk of the new pot will go to the Academic Health Science Networks, with £39m awarded to locally assess the benefits of new technologies and support NHS take-up.

A new £6m ‘pathway transformation fund’ has also been created to help NHS organisations integrate new technologies into their everyday practices through training staff.

The government’s announcement has come in response to an independent ‘accelerated access’ review published last October. That review recommended changes to the way the health sector interacts with industry, as well as the way it selects innovative health and social care products, as part of a wider effort to get patients “quicker access to innovative healthcare”.

The digital health catalyst money will be made available on a match-funding basis.

Health minister Lord O’Shaughnessy said the government’s ambition was that NHS patients receive “world-leading, life-changing treatments as fast as possible”.

“That can’t happen unless we support medical innovation and tear down the barriers – like speed to market and access to funding – that can get in the way, especially for SMEs,” he said.

Of the £86m, £6m is to be assigned to SMEs to help them build the evidence they need by testing innovative medicines and devices in the real world.

IT industry association techUK, which earlier this month entered into a ‘strategic partnership with NHS digital to “help make the industry voice heard”, described the catalyst as “a great boost for innovators in the sector”.

“The announcement also recognises that the resources needed to generate evidence to show that a technology is worth reimbursing can be prohibitively difficult for SMEs – so the fund to support evidence generation for innovative devices is particularly welcome,” said techUK head of health and social care Ben Moody.