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NHSx unveils first winners of £50m AI in Health and Care Award

The developers of more than forty AI-powered healthcare products are set to take a cut of a new £50m NHS innovation fund.

Revealed by the health secretary Matt Hancock at a London Tech Week event today (8 September), the fund seeks to accelerate the rollout of cutting-edge healthcare projects that harness AI and machine learning to improve treatment of a range of conditions.

Among the companies earmarked for funding are Kheiron Medical Technologies, which has developed an algorithm to analyse breast cancer scans, Ibex Medical Analytics, the developer of an AI system to review prostate scans, and Xim Limited, which has built software that uses smartphone cameras to monitor vital signs.

Delivering the keynote address of the Founders Forum Health Summit this morning, the health secretary said: “We cannot unleash the benefits of new tech without a close and symbiotic working relationship between the NHS […] and the companies, the entrepreneurs and the innovators who come up with many of the world-beating ideas that we have and we’re rolling out.

“The challenge of ensuring that that symbiosis works and that we get the best possible links – that is a challenge that I’m willing to address.”

Hancock said the £50m funding award, which has been managed by the NHS’s AI lab and NHSx, a digital transformation unit set up last year, would “drive forward the use of AI and machine learning across the NHS” and ensure the health service has an “open door for all those who want to use its capabilities in order to save lives and improve treatment”.

More than 530 medics, entrepreneurs, scientists and engineers applied to participate in the first cohort of the scheme, titled the “AI in Health and Care Award”. Over next three years, the government expects to award a total of £140m through the initiative.

The 40-plus organisations that secured a place on the scheme have been divided into one of four categories according to how far advanced their projects are. The majority of the early-stage projects have taken root at universities, including UCL, Dundee, Oxford and Nottingham, while the more advanced participants are primarily private businesses.

Matthew Gould, chief executive of NHSX, said: “Throughout the pandemic, the NHS has shown how digital technology can transform the service it provides, quickly and safely, but we have a long way to go.

“The NHS AI Lab was set up to drive the adoption of data-driven technologies, with the goal of enhancing the care our staff can give their patients, and these awards should give that effort a serious boost.”

The next round of applications open in the autumn.