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Leading-edge healthcare: Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund

An overview of government's programme to develop and manufacture new medicines, digital health products and medical technologies.

What is the leading-edge healthcare challenge?

The leading-edge healthcare challenge is part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

We are faced with the challenge of manufacturing many different types of medicines, and getting the right drugs and treatments to individual patients when they need them.

Government will invest £181 million to speed up access to new medicines and drugs and improve healthcare. It will establish new facilities and support research and innovation projects that accelerate the development and manufacture of vital advanced therapies, medicines and vaccines.

The fund is estimated to return £1 billion to the UK economy, support high-value, highly-skilled manufacturing and increase productivity.

Innovate UK will deliver the challenge on behalf of UK Research and Innovation, with input from the Office for Life Sciences.

Accelerating Innovative Medicines challenge

The funding is in 4 areas:

  • advanced therapies treatment centres
  • medicines manufacturing projects
  • viral vector production projects
  • digital health technology catalyst

Advanced therapies treatment centres

A network of 3 advanced therapies treatment centres will help to improve how we manufacture, prepare and use advanced therapies to treat patients in the UK.

£21 million is being invested to establish the centres. They will create best practice, implement new systems and infrastructure, and build UK capabilities to speed and scale up the use of these therapies with a large number of patients.

The centres are a joint collaboration between hospitals, therapeutics development businesses and the supply chain. They will span the north of England and Scotland, Manchester, and the Midlands and Wales.

Medicines manufacturing projects

Innovate UK will run funding competitions for businesses to carry out feasibility studies or industrial research and development projects in medicines manufacturing.

Any UK business or research and technology organisation may be eligible to apply to lead a project. You will need to be based in the UK, carry out your project and exploit the results here.

Depending on the competition scope, you may work with other businesses, academic institutions, charities, public sector or research and technology organisations. Projects must involve at least one small or medium-sized enterprise (SME).

Projects could look at:

  • improving the commercial viability of manufacturing processes
  • developing methods to scale-up production
  • increasing the yield of active ingredients for medicines
  • lowering the cost of production and goods

Funded projects

One of the projects to be offered funding is led by MeiraGTx, which develops gene therapies for patients with acquired and inherited disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

The company will work with Touchlight Genetics and Symbiosis Pharmaceutical Services to establish a new and novel gene-therapy manufacturing platform.

Medicines Manufacturing - MeiraGTx

Viral vector production projects

As the carriers of gene and cell therapy treatments, viral vectors are vital for advanced therapies.

To address the shortage of capacity we have for making viral vectors in the UK, £5.6 million is being invested in projects that support their manufacture and production. These projects will build the UK’s capacity to commercially manufacture viral vectors that can be used in the treatment of human disease.

The funded projects are working across 2 locations, in Oxford and Keele, Staffordshire. They are led by Oxford BioMedica and Cobra Biologics.

Digital health technology catalyst

The digital health technology catalyst is a £35 million fund over 4 years.

Innovate UK will run funding competitions for projects to develop new digital technology products for healthcare. These should help support patient access, create personalised and more targeted treatments and improve outcomes.

An SME must lead a project. You will need to work with at least one other business, academic institution, charity, public sector or research and technology organisation, and focus on industrial research or experimental development.

You need to be based in the UK, carry out your project and exploit the results here.

Projects should:

  • improve health and wellbeing
  • transform care and improve quality and choice
  • better control costs

We are looking to fund projects that span a range of technologies including:

  • virtual and augmented reality
  • artificial intelligence and machine learning
  • use of sensors, internet of things, and networks
  • informatics, data analytics and process

Funded projects

Funded projects include digital therapeutics start-up, Neurofenix partnering with Brunel University London to develop Gameball. This is a digital game with a handheld controller that patients with neurological impairments can use as part of their rehabilitation.

Digital Health Catalyst - Neurofenix

Virtual, augmented and mixed reality company, FundamentalVR will lead another project to develop a surgical training platform. It will allow surgeons to use virtual reality to learn procedures before they operate on human tissue.

Digital Health Catalyst - FundamentalVR

Live funding opportunities

UK businesses can apply for up to £8 million through the digital health technology catalyst.

Find out more

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Published 18 April 2018
Last updated 9 October 2018 + show all updates
  1. Added link to a press release about the latest projects to be offered grant funding through the digital health technology catalyst and medicines manufacturing competitions.
  2. First published.