UK pledges £130m for new tech to tackle debilitating diseases

People in the UK could benefit from faster diagnosis and better treatment for debilitating illnesses after the government revealed this week that it would invest over £130m in research for healthcare innovation.

This includes a £50m funding boost to support NHS diagnostic services and the work of the Centres of Excellence in digital pathology and imaging with AI, set up by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) last year.


Based in London, Leeds, Oxford and Coventry, these centres bring together representatives from the NHS, the industry and academia to create new products that enable early diagnosis of disease by leveraging advances in digital technology.

According to the government, the £50m will be allocated through a competition managed by UKRI between the four centres, helping to expand their work by partnering with more NHS trusts. 

Adult social care will also receive a £7.5m boost for research to improve care delivery, while £14m will be used to fund bioscience projects and technologies that could, for instance, provide help in the treatment of osteoarthritis and developing vaccines.  

With the new funding, the aim is to also help people lead healthier and longer lives, as the Office for National Statistics estimates that over 24% of people in the UK will be aged 65 or over by 2042, compared to 18% three years ago.

“Supporting people to live long, healthy and independent lives is a fundamental value of our society and, as our population ages, one of the biggest challenges we face,” said Professor Sir Mark Walport, UKRI chief executive. “This £133 million investment will tackle important chronic diseases and also create a national centre of evidence for implementing the best evidence to provide adult social care.”


In August, the government revealed that NHSX and the Accelerated Access Collaborative, the umbrella organisation for UK health innovation, would create a national AI lab for the NHS, supported by a £250m fund.

“In the first instance it [the £250m investment] should help personalise NHS screening and treatments for cancer, eye disease and a range of other conditions, as well as freeing up staff time,” said at the time Simon Stevens, NHS England chief executive.


In a statement, Matt Hancock, health and social care secretary, said: “We’ve got to bring NHS technology into the 21st century. I’ve seen for myself how better technology and diagnosis can save clinicians’ time so they can concentrate on care.

“The NHS is now spearheading world-leading technologies that can transform and save lives through new treatments, diagnosis techniques and care. I’m determined that the benefits of these advances will improve the lives of thousands of patients whose conditions have long been considered life-limiting.”

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