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Government launches £50m competition for digital pathology and imaging

The government will provide funding for up to six specialist centres focusing on digital pathology or medical imaging, as part of the drive to make the UK a world leader in the field

The government has launched a £50m competition, aiming to build a network of digital pathology and medical imaging centres.

The competition, run by Innovate UK, is part of the drive to make the UK a world leader in digital pathology and radiology, using AI to analyse medical images, which has the potential to diagnose disease more accurately.

The government hopes to establish up to six centres focusing on digital pathology, imaging, or both. The government envisions the total cost of each project to be between £14m and £20m, and "businesses could attract up to 70% of their eligible costs". It is open to any UK-based business, NHS organisation, hospital, research organisation, charity or Academic Health Science Network, which can then work in collaboration with others.

The centres will also have to work together through a framework agreement, and have to commit to supporting data sharing and interoperability “to allow seamless access to digital image repositories”, as well as using “advanced data storage and analytical environments that are capable of managing large numbers of digital images and their associated data”.

“Applications should focus on how they can add value to existing processes using digital systems, enhanced analytics and artificial intelligence [AI]. They should address common themes facing the healthcare sector including standardisation, data sharing and interoperability, regulation and scale,” the government said.

In March 2018, Computer Weekly reported that the government will use £300m of its Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to help tackle the challenges of an ageing society through technology and innovation.  

Most of the £300m funding will go towards data science, with £210m being pumped into a “data to early diagnosis and precision medicine programme”, which aims to improve diagnosis and develop new medical technologies, diagnostic tools and products.

Some £70m will be invested to create regional diagnostic centres of excellence across the country, offering patients “better diagnosis using new technologies, including AI”.

Earlier this year, the government’s already existing 100,000 Genomes Project reached the halfway point, and it hopes to complete it by the end of the year.

In Scotland, three hospitals across two Scottish health boards began piloting a digital pathology service in November 2017, with the aim of launching it nationally.

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