Government offer £4 million for technological solutions to tackle healthcare problems

Posted on April 2, 2012 by

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The Department of Health has launched two competitions, offering £2 million each. These are open to businesses that have bright, innovative ideas on how to solve two major problems for the NHS – the impact of smoking & obesity, and patients not taking their medication as prescribed. The money will allow the winning businesses to develop their ideas, which can then be brought to market and be used to improve healthcare for patients in the NHS.

Background

According to the Department of Health, alcohol and obesity related diseases cost the NHS over £7 billion each year and between 6-10 % of all hospital admissions could be preventable if prescription medication was taken correctly. Tackling these problems could result in huge savings for the NHS and improve public health.

The competition

The competition is open to any type of business, not just traditional healthcare companies. The government hopes that the involvement of a wider range of companies will result in more creative and innovative solutions (i.e. they needn’t be medical, they could be a new app for example, or a novel outpatient care programme). The competitions will be run through the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI); NHS London will manage the smoking and obesity challenge and NHS Midlands and East will be in charge of the prescriptions challenge.

It was announced in March 2011’s Plan for Growth that the Department of Health would commit £10 million over two years on SBRI competitions that address healthcare challenges, this was doubled to £20m in December 2011. The £4m award for these two competitions comes from that pot of money.

What does this mean for AMRC charities?

The best way for the NHS to meet the increasing cost of providing world-leading healthcare is through innovation; business and charities develop many innovative ideas to improve public health in cost effective ways. These awards are designed to stimulate business efforts to meet the needs of the NHS. The press release suggests the £4m will only be available to businesses, not charities.

This fund is designed to help businesses develop their ideas in the research & development (R&D) phase. There are other ways to stimulate innovation that the government could consider, such as ‘challenge prizes’. The advantage of this approach is that the government will only need to pay up once the problem has been solved. Popular examples can be found in the US, where the the $10 million Archon Genomics X PRIZE is available to the first team to sequence 100 human genomes within 10 days for $10,000 or less per genome.

What do you think about this new initiative? Is it the best way to encourage innovation and help the NHS?

Posted in: Research