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Government invests £220m in tech projects to help "future-proof" post-Brexit economy

Chancellor Philip Hammond highlights the role high-tech industries have to play in safe-guarding the post-Brexit economy

The government is to pump £220m of investment into helping the healthcare and life sciences sectors, as part of its push to “future-proof” the post-Brexit economy.

The money will be used to extend several government-backed initiatives geared towards helping universities, academic institutions and small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) turn successful research projects into commercially viable products and business ventures.

As such, £100m of this funding will go towards supporting the ongoing work of the Medical Research Council and Innovate UK’s joint Biomedical Catalyst (BMC) initiative for another four years.

Since its launch in April 2012, the BMC has reportedly handed more than £250m in funding to support SMEs and academic organisations embarking on feasibility studies, proof of concepts and clinical trials for their healthcare products.

Projects that have previously benefited from the scheme include one focused on testing the feasibility of producing non-invasive, fingerprint-based, drug-detecting devices for use by accident and emergency staff. Another, meanwhile, set about testing the viability of creating web-based self-care systems for type-2 diabetes sufferers.    

The remaining £120m will be used to fund the involvement of universities and businesses up and down the country in so-called “tech transfer” schemes, which encourage collaboration between these two groups.

In the past, tech transfer initiatives have paved the way for academic groups to launch commercial spin-off products on the back of their research, with the help of related businesses.

One example of this is Nottingham University’s Oncimmune venture, which has paved the way for the development of a blood test that can pick up the early signs of lung cancer.

Read more about government tech initiatives and funding programmes

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During his time on stage at the conservative party conference in Birmingham, chancellor Philip Hammond said the investment is part of the government’s push to “future-proof the economy of post-Brexit Britain” by ensuring the UK’s tech industry remains an attractive place to work.

“We must carefully maintain the conditions that have brought this activity to Britain in the first place, including the ability to attract the brightest and best to work here in our high-tech industries,” he said.

“Where we see that there are government interventions that work, we should make them. So today I can announce a further £220m of support for technology innovation.”

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