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Scotland links its tech scaler programme with the NHS

As part of the deal, firms part of the tech scaler programme aimed at helping startups scale up will be given access to NHS regional test beds

Startups taking part in the Scottish tech scaler programme will be able to trial their products within the NHS as part of a new agreement.

The £42m programme, which was launched by the then-prime minister Nicola Sturgeon in July 2022, consists of a network of “tech scaler” incubators across the nation.

The tech scalers aim to provide “long-term affordable, high-quality incubation space” and education in a range of areas, including Silicon Valley business models, internet-economy working practices, how to manage people and teams and basic operating hygiene.

The firms and entrepreneurs involved in the programme will now be offered access to the NHS regional test beds, which aim to fast-track innovations in the NHS.

Wellbeing economy secretary Neil Gray said the partnership between the NHS test beds and the tech scaler programme means Scotland will be “able to leverage our world-leading universities, life sciences hubs and excellent healthcare systems to support the growth of the sector and development of entrepreneurs”.

“Testing products in a real-world environment and accelerating development is vital, and will enable a broader reach of the tech scaler programme,” he said.

“This in turn will benefit patients and medical staff as they develop cutting-edge technology for use across the NHS, from stroke and rehabilitation through to reducing drug-related deaths.

“It is a further example of the steps we are taking as we develop a sustainable, high-skill economy that works for everyone.”

There are currently three NHS test beds across Scotland, funded by the Scottish government’s chief scientists office, including the West of Scotland Innovation Hub, which was founded in 2019. In 2021, the hub had 57 ongoing projects, from devices and sensors to machine learning and aided diagnostics.

The link-up between the test beds and the tech scaler programme means entrepreneurs will be given access to patients and anonymised data to test their ideas products and services.

As part of the deal, firms already working in NHS test beds will automatically become part of the tech scaler network.

In 2020, the then Scottish finance secretary Kate Forbes announced a short-term review of the country’s tech sector in May 2020.

The review, which was led by former Skyscanner chief operating officer (COO) Mark Logan, was published in August 2020. It called for government to build out “a world-class backbone implementation of core capability”, as well as setting up a network of tech scaler incubators, which led to the actual creation of the programme.

In May 2021, Logan was appointed to lead Scotland’s technology-led post-Covid-19 recovery programme. In July 2022, he was appointed chief entrepreneur for Scotland.

Commenting on the link-up between the NHS and the tech scaler programme, Logan said: “By making this connection between health testing and business support, we create an environment for innovation which enables Scottish companies to compete effectively, whilst bringing much-needed treatment solutions to the NHS.”

Read more about Scotland and technology:

  • The Scottish data strategy for health and social care aims to make it easier for people to access their own health and social care data, improve data flows between organisations, and transform the way data is used to enhance services.
  • Scotland’s planned national digital platform aims to give people access to their health and social care data, as well as provide staff with access to data to inform decisions about care.
  • A collaboration between NHS Scotland, industry partners and academia aims to launch large-scale programmes to improve population health in the country through digital technologies and new patient pathways.

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