Health Innovation Challenge Fund – Smart Surgery

 Posted by  Funding
Feb 222011
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The fourth theme of the Health Innovation Challenge Fund is Smart Surgery: Innovative technologies or interventions to reduce, replace or refine invasive surgical procedures.

The Health Innovation Challenge Fund is a five-year parallel funding partnership between the Wellcome Trust and the Department of Health to stimulate the creation of innovative healthcare products, technologies and interventions, and facilitate their development for the benefit of patients in the NHS and beyond. The fund is a translational mechanism offering up to £10m at each of two calls per year. Eligible projects will have passed a proof of concept stage. The funding is intended to take the product, technology or intervention to a stage where it is sufficiently developed to be attractive to a commercial partner or for procurement by healthcare providers.

Objectives of the programme are:

  1. Stimulate the development of innovative products, technologies and interventions for the benefit of patients in the NHS and beyond
  2. Target unmet needs in healthcare and seek specific solutions from UK companies, academia and clinicians via a succession of themed calls for proposals
  3. Support projects that have reached ‘proof-of-concept’ and have the potential to be market ready within 3-5 years

The Challenge

The fourth theme for HICF is Smart Surgery: Innovative technologies or interventions to reduce, replace or refine invasive surgical procedures.

A continued shift towards less invasive surgery, and ideally non-surgical interventions, would make a significant positive impact on patient outcomes and reduce the burden on acute care and rehabilitation services. The ageing population, the demand for patient-friendly operating methods and the financial pressure on the healthcare system provide strong drivers for innovation in this area.

However, the high-risk nature of development and introduction of transformative technologies creates barriers to adoption of novel approaches. The Health Innovation Challenge Fund is making available up to £10m for healthcare innovators who can overcome these barriers and deliver ‘Smart Surgery’ solutions that will translate into safe and cost-effective practice into the NHS.

Smart Surgery, involving a replacement (or significant reduction) of invasiveness, will reduce trauma and recovery times, improve post-surgical management, decrease surgery-associated morbidity and mortality, shorten in-patient stays and lower healthcare costs.

The HIC Fund is seeking solutions that will make a tangible difference, in particular:

  1. New techniques that blend advances in software, technology and instrumentation, and which are designed and implemented through partnerships between leading surgeons and technical innovators.
  2. Innovations which may lead to replacement of invasive surgery with a non-invasive procedure.
  3. Improvements on current devices or instruments that demonstrably and significantly reduce the degree of surgical invasiveness.
  4. Integrated systems capable of combining early diagnosis and identification of target areas prior to the surgical procedure, thus allowing immediate treatment.
  5. Highly innovative and integrative approaches involving advanced technologies such as:
    • Computer-aided non-surgical methods
    • Sophisticated guidance techniques that de-skill and de-risk surgical tasks
    • Pre-investigative, image-guided assessments of surgical outcomes, e.g. through modelling of post-surgical states
    • Use of electromagnetic or ultrasonic radiation to treat target areas/conditions
    • Targeted delivery of therapeutic cells or microparticles
    • Mechatronics and robotics
    • Innovative strategies for recording and evaluating performance of new technologies e.g. embedded observational databases
    • Technologies which improve the accuracy and/or precision of a procedure

Priorities are:

  • Projects deliverable into NHS within 3-5 years.
  • Collaborations between academia, clinicians and industry.

HSC Trusts are eligible to apply to this fund or may be a collaborator in an application led by partner.

The closing date for preliminary applications is 28th April 2011 (5pm). Full information is on the Health Innovation Challenge Fund website at