As part of the Government’s plan to build a Britain fit for the future, the Business Secretary Greg Clark has announced a £300m competitive fund to develop the innovations and new technologies of tomorrow. Through its Ageing Society Grand Challenge, the Government has committed to invest in harnessing the power of innovation to help meet the diverse needs of an ageing society.
The Government is investing over £300m from its Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) to bring together the UK’s world-class research expertise with business investment to develop technologies and industries that can help the UK prepare for the challenge of an ageing society.
More than 10 million people in the UK today can expect to see their 100th birthday, compared to the 15,000 centurions today. Ageing populations are a global phenomenon that are creating new demands for technologies, products and services, including new care technologies, different housing models and innovative savings products for retirement.
The new allocation of funding will see £98m for a ‘healthy ageing programme’ and £210m for a ‘data to early diagnosis and precision medicine programme’ to improve diagnosis of disease and develop new medical treatments and technologies.
The £98m ‘healthy ageing programme’ will drive the development of new products and services which will help people to live in their homes for longer, tackle loneliness, and increase independence and wellbeing. The programme will be investing in tackling some of the toughest medical challenges facing society today.
Separately, with an estimated 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia, the Government has also announced it will be investing an extra £40m into the UK Dementia Research Institute to create a new hub in partnership with University College London that will host 350 leading scientists, researching new treatments to improve the lives of millions.
The £210m investment in the ‘data to early diagnosis and precision medicine’ challenge will see the UK lead the world in the development of innovative new diagnostic tools, medical products and treatments.
As part of the funding, the Government will be investing in genomics, ensuring the UK continues to lead the world in large scale whole genome sequencing. Genome sequencing can help those with rare diseases receive faster diagnoses and cancer patients gain better access to personalised treatment programmes.
Through the new investment, the UK will sequence the genomes of 500,000 Biobank volunteers. This will provide a rich resource of data that UK researchers will use to build a greater understanding of disease processes and enable the development of tools for early diagnosis and a new wave of therapies.
Over £70m is going to be invested in creating regional centres across the UK to offer patients better diagnosis using new technologies, including Artificial Intelligence (AI).
This investment, as well as future funding from industry, in new centres of excellence will support industry collaboration with the NHS to help the UK lead the world in digital pathology and radiology, including using AI to analyse medical images.
Applying AI to medical images has the potential to diagnose disease more accurately and, therefore, provide more targeted treatment, and increase efficiency in the health system.
Each centre will enable companies, including SMEs, to rapidly develop, test and implement products and systems in partnership with doctors and academics, improving patient care and gaining early evidence of real-world product value.
Investing in these programmes will enable research that could result in globally significant advances in healthcare such as cures for some cancers. The different strands of the ISCF programme will create the data needed to enable research into better diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease.
The Government has also announced the winning bids for the £21m Advanced Therapy Treatment Centres that will be established across the UK by industry, academia and the NHS. Funded by the ISCF Medicines Manufacturing challenge, the centres will be located at Innovate Manchester Advanced Therapy Centre Hub, the Midlands-Wales Advanced Therapy Treatment Centre and the Northern Alliance Advanced Therapies Treatment Centre. The centres will specialise in the delivery of cell and gene therapy products that could treat forms of blindness, cancer, heart failure, liver disease, neurological conditions and rare paediatric diseases and will be co-ordinated by the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult.