2017 saw the Government’s Industrial Strategy gather pace, with additional funding announced in a number of key areas, alongside the release of the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy and Sector Deal. But how will this benefit the NHS and how can NHS organisations take full advantage of the new funding available?
Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund
In summer 2017, the Government announced an additional £1 billion would be invested in research and development over the next 4 years as part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF).
A significant portion of this investment has been earmarked for healthcare and associated technologies, with funding being focused on the following six key areas:
- Healthcare and medicine
- Robotics and artificial intelligence
- Batteries for clean and flexible energy storage
- Self-driving vehicles
- Manufacturing and materials of the future
- Satellites and space technology.
While the healthcare and medicine area offers clear benefit for the NHS, what is exciting about this initiative is the potential for joint working across complementary areas. For example, Arden & GEM CSU is already working with the satellites and space technology industry to identify major healthcare challenges that the ICSF could consider.
The investment is already being realised through the UK’s innovation agency. Innovate UK awarded the first £10 million from the ISCF to 35 projects, all led by SMEs but including a wide range of collaboration partners. A number of the initial projects have potential benefits for the NHS, including using aerospace coating technology in prosthetics and 3D scanners for wound care in hospital. Further funding opportunities, administered by The Research Councils and Innovate UK, opened in June 2017, with healthcare bids shortlisted in the following areas; healthy ageing, early diagnostics and mental health.
Life Sciences Industrial Strategy
The Life Sciences Industrial Strategy, published in August 2017, engaged industry, the third sector and the NHS to publish a vision and strategy for the life sciences sector. The report’s author, Professor Sir John Bell, was keen to point out that many of the opportunities identified in the strategy were uniquely available to the NHS and could not be realised in many insurance-based healthcare systems.
The strategy laid out key challenges which, for the NHS, included collaboration with industry and facilitating better care for patients through better adoption of innovative treatments and technologies.
Core recommendations to meet these challenges included:
- Creation of the Health Advanced Research Programme (HARP) to develop and support platforms for genomics, early diagnostics, AI and digitalisation
- Adoption of the Accelerated Access Review (AAR) with the intention that the NHS should actively engage in collaborative programmes in late-stage clinical trials, real world data collection, or in the evaluation of diagnostics or devices
- Establishing Digital Innovation Hubs (DIH) to provide data across regions of three to five million people to deliver a national approach for the generation of real world data which can be accessed by researchers.
The Strategy Board believes that the same innovation that drives global economic growth can be used to improve outcomes and reduce cost within the NHS, creating a virtuous circle of investment.
Life Sciences Sector Deal
Announced in December 2017, the Life Sciences Sector Deal will help ensure pioneering treatments and medical technologies are produced in the UK, improving patient lives and driving economic growth. The deal brings together the government with universities, charities and businesses to make a joint commitment to investment. It involves substantial investment from private and charitable sectors and significant commitments in research and development from the government. Key to the long term success of the deal will be the engagement of the NHS as a research partner.
The NHS provides a unique environment where technologies can be developed and tested, and used to transform services to improve outcomes and reduce cost. In order to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the Industrial Strategy, STP leaders should look to:
- engage with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and fund administrators to shape how unallocated money is invested
- actively partner with SMEs in their local area to access funds which can support the development of innovative healthcare solutions.