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NHSX launches second round of NHS AI competition

NHS is looking for artificial intelligence products to help with triage, screening, imaging and intelligent operational automation

NHSX has launched the second round of its AI in Health and Care Award, which will offer £140m in funding over the next three years for artificial intelligence (AI) products to be used in the NHS.

For the second round, the NHS is particularly interested in products either at phase 3 or phase 4, which means they are ready to support the first real-world tests in health and social care settings, or ready to support the spread of AI products “that have market authorisation but insufficient evidence to merit large-scale commissioning or deployment” in a range of areas.

These include imaging, screening, triage and intelligent operational automation. Applications for the funding will be open until 8 December 2020.

Indra Joshi, director of AI at NHSX, said AI and machine learning “have enormous potential in healthcare”.

“This award will help us harness the enormous range of innovation in AI so the NHS can be a world leader in the use and deployment of these cutting-edge technologies,” she said. “Before we can roll out these new devices or processes, the award will enable us to test and evaluate them, so we can make sure they deliver the expected benefits to staff and patients.

“We had a huge amount of interest in the first round of the AI in Health and Care Award, and once again we would encourage all those who have an AI tool or product that they think could help the NHS to apply now.”

In September 2020, health secretary Matt Hancock announced the results of the first round of the award, which saw 42 projects receive a total of £50m in funding.

The funding was awarded to a range of healthcare AI projects, including to the University of Liverpool, which is developing AI techniques to predict eye cancer using big longitudinal data; and Project Rhapsody, led by tech company Novoic, which is looking at the clinical feasibility of using AI-based deep audio and language processing to diagnose neurological and psychiatric conditions by analysing speech and language patterns.

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The award is managed by the Accelerated Access Collaborative, which is organised under the authority of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, and runs the competition in partnership with NHSX.

Matt Whitty, CEO of the Accelerated Access Collaborative and director of innovation, research and life sciences at NHS England and NHS Improvement, said there is a huge amount of innovation and research ongoing in the field of AI at the moment and this award is an excellent opportunity for the NHS to test and deploy the best solutions available.

“We don’t just want to hear about finished products – the award is also designed to support those in the early stages of development who need a bit of extra help,” he said.

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