Competition open for “Digital Innovation Hubs” – new centres for pioneering health data research and innovation

Health Data Research UK is leading a £22million competition to create up to five centres of excellence to pioneer the use of health data for research and innovation.

These centres – known as Digital Innovation Hubs – will enable researchers and innovators to have greater access to health data from the NHS, social care and research laboratories.

As well as helping to answer the most important and complex questions about our health and disease, the aim is to use data to radically improve people’s health and care by diagnosing disease earlier, finding new treatments and cures for diseases, speeding up drug development, and giving people faster access to more personalised treatments.

The overall four-year Digital Innovation Hub Programme is a £37million investment from UK Research and Innovation as part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) to create up to five world-leading Hubs across the UK.

It is a key element of the ISCF Data to Early Diagnosis and Precision Medicine challenge, placing early diagnosis and best treatments for particular patients at the heart of a national approach to better health.  This builds on many recent healthcare technological advances, including in digital health and genomics, and on broader developments in machine learning and artificial intelligence.

They will also create a common access point to UK health research data through a ‘Gateway’ that will ensure data is findable, accessible and used safely and responsibly.  The data will allow experts to research the genetic, lifestyle and social factors behind many familiar common diseases and identify revealing data trends which may help with finding cures or treatments.

A £3 million trial phase is already demonstrating success for 10 sprint exemplar projects across the UK.  For example, in Manchester, data on heart patients is being collected from patients with fitted pacemakers or the use of defibrillators to help manage conditions and reduce risk of emergency hospital admissions.  Another project in Liverpool aims to improve outcomes for patients with epilepsy and reduce unnecessary admissions to A&E by connecting data from GPs, hospitals and ambulance services and making it available to paramedics and emergency department staff when they are called out to patients requiring urgent care.

Today’s announcement marks the opening of a competition to create the Hubs, which will be selected through a competition process led by the Medical Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation.  Hubs are expected to be established by the end of 2019.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said:

“Access to anonymised health data has huge potential to allow us to better understand diseases and develop life-saving new drugs and treatments.

The Digital Innovation Hubs, backed by over £37million of Industrial Strategy investment, will ensure researchers, innovators and clinicians can access a large quantity of anonymised data responsibly and ethically – allowing them to pioneer new medicines and treatments.

These hubs are a major part of our modern Industrial Strategy, building on the UK’s world leading life sciences sector and health service to the benefit of researchers, industry and patients.”

Health Minister Nicola Blackwood said:

“It is absolutely crucial that researchers are able to access the NHS’s world-leading anonymised data so they can develop cutting-edge treatments and solutions to some of healthcare’s biggest challenges. This will mean people can receive new medicines quicker and get more timely diagnoses which will ultimately save lives.

As part of our Long Term Plan, we are determined to encourage more innovation in the NHS than ever before so patients benefit from the best medicines and technologies.”

Professor Andrew Morris, Director of Health Data Research UK, said:

“We are excited about the tremendous opportunities that that Digital Innovation Hub Programme brings to the future of health research and innovation in the UK.  Working closely with UK Research and Innovation, our focus in delivering these new centres of excellence is first and foremost on ensuring that patients reap the rewards and are reassured that all data are used ethically and responsibly.

“The UK has a high energy community that brings together leading health experts, entrepreneurs and data scientists. When combined with the UK’s ability to bring data together from hospitals, patients, public health and laboratories, we can power an open innovation platform that improves the health and care of people living with cancer, diabetes and heart disease and make the UK the place for ethical data research.”

For further information about the Digital Innovation Hub Programme visit Health Data Research UK’s website.  To find out details of the competition and to apply visit the Medical Research Council’s website.

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