Healthcare photonics gets £3.7 million from UK government

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Healthcare photonic technology is being funded through a two-stage competition by the UK government’s Technology Strategy Board (TSB).

To be matched by industry funding, the TSB is providing a total pot of £3.7 million for the two stages. In the first stage, six to 12 month feasibility studies will get up to 75 per cent of a project’s eligible costs, up to a maximum of £175,000. The studies should include a healthcare end-user and must have a small and medium sized enterprise (SME) involved. This first stage will get £1.1 million of the £3.7 million. Stage two, itself, has two stages and will get £2.2 million of the total pot. Projects up to 24 months will be considered for technology development and then their demonstration in a clinical environment or at a point of care. These two-stage projects can get up to £750,000, or 60 per cent of their eligible costs. Again, a project must have one SME partner.

Iain Gray is the chief executive of the TSB. He said: ‘The involvement of clinical and industrial end-users in both the feasibility studies and R&D stages of the competition will help ensure not just that the NHS and clinicians fully understand the potential of next generation photonic technologies, but that they can bring their expertise to bear in the development of a range of new tools for less invasive diagnosis and surgery.’

David Willetts, a Conservative party member of parliament and the UK government’s minister for universities and science, made the announcement of the competitions on 11 March. The competitions are to encourage the formation of new business-led partnerships between academia, industry and health providers, to validate and highlight new applications of photonics in healthcare.

The TSB identified the following as possible areas of funding, phototherapy for dermatological conditions; laser procedures in ophthalmology; oncology; lasers for the manufacture of medical devices; genomic research and drug discovery; sterilisation using light sources; and optical microscopy and spectroscopy for cell-based studies to identify and treat diseases.