Government awards £9m to UK HealthTech firms

Written by Peter Walker
29/03/19

Innovative digital technology projects to address key challenges in healthcare have received a £9 million funding boost through the government’s Digital Health Technology Catalyst.

The catalyst, delivered by UK Research and Innovation, aims to accelerate the development of digital health innovation, under the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

Projects range from the use of machine learning and hand-held devices to improve the targeting of clinical interventions, to the use of portable brain imaging technology to help identify patients’ personalised risk of developing dementia.

Science and innovation minister Chris Skidmore said: “These advances in technology, across the UK, demonstrate our modern Industrial Strategy in action by harnessing the power of innovation to help meet the needs of an ageing society, and creating the high skilled jobs of the future.”

Projects which received funding include:

• Rugby-based OpusVL, which has developed eObs, allowing clinicians to observe patients digitally through hand-held devices. The device can then send an automatic alert to specialists or consultants if patients are identified as ‘at risk’.
• Red Star Consulting, a Glasgow-based project, is applying machine learning to analyse clinical notes recorded in the electronic health record of diabetes patients. The machine learning models predict, based on patient’s clinical notes, the risk of different clinical endpoints and present this information to the clinician as a score or alert.
• Kent-based Mind over Matter MedTech is working with Wessex Academic Health Science Network to trial novel, low-cost and portable brain imaging technology. This aims to test patients’ personalised risk for developing dementia in a non-invasive manner, and at least a decade before any clinical symptoms would appear.
• Working with the University of Oxford, Ufonia will deploy AI-driven voice technology to call patients and have a fully autonomous, natural conversation, to assess their health status against specified criteria.
• Leicester-based Snoozeal, working with the University of Loughborough, has developed a device to treat obstructive sleep apnoea, a condition where the muscles and soft tissues in the throat relax and collapse, blocking the airways for 10 seconds or more during sleep, which can cause long-term health problems. The device contracts muscle at the rear of the tongue through a 20-minute daily toning regime of mild electric pulses. The Snoozeal device aims to be connected to an intelligent platform to collect biosensor data of tongue tone, which will be classified by machine learning to deliver personalised treatment regimes.

Funded through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, the Digital Health Technology Catalyst (DHTC) is a £35 million fund, being run over four years.

The DHTC is an element of the government’s plans to implement the Accelerated Access Review. It aims to address some of the challenges that the review identified around the development of digital health innovations, and to help grow the digital health sector.

DHTC funding is targeted at small businesses to promote a vibrant and varied industry of innovative technologies with the potential to significantly change care pathways and to improve patient outcomes and create NHS efficiencies.