1. Transformative technologies for patients and the NHS

    Simon Butler was previously a Grow MedTech Technology Innovation Manager, based at Sheffield Hallam University. He is now helping start-ups and businesses bringing health and wellbeing innovations to market in his new role as Head of the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC) Wellbeing Accelerator.

    The AWRC Wellbeing Accelerator is based in Sheffield Hallam University’s new Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre, which houses over 3,000 square meters of specialist facilities including 3D printers and laser cutters for rapid prototyping, laboratories for product testing, a clinical research centre, and support networks. 

    In this article, Simon shares his thoughts on supporting the commercialisation of assistive and rehabilitative technologies. 


    It’s clear that demand on the NHS is growing and our health services are under increasing pressure. New technologies aren’t a panacea for this problem, but they can certainly help – in particular assistive and rehabilitative technologies. 

    There will always be a cohort of patients who, because of disease or trauma, need help to recover and resume their lives as before. For this cohort, there’s no doubt that an assistive or rehabilitative technology can be completely transformative. 

    But there is another rapidly growing cohort – that of an increasingly ageing population – where new assistive and rehabilitative technologies can help the NHS to deal with the pressure this creates.

    As people live longer, but not always in good health, the impact of disease and disability is increasing the burden on the NHS. 

    Rehabilitative technologies that can help these patients remain mobile, independent and healthier not only transform their lives, but relieve our health services as well. 

    Stroke recovery 

    I’ve been supporting one such project at Sheffield Hallam University that brings together physiotherapists, stroke physicians, physical activity and exercise specialists and computer scientists to improve rehabilitation for people with stroke.

    The team, led by Professor Chris Smith, has been working with a local company which makes power-assisted exercise equipment, to enable people with limited mobility to do physical exercise.  

    One problem with the machines for rehab purposes was that they didn’t tell users how much effort they were putting in and how much was being generated by the machine, so patients couldn’t see how they were improving. 

    The Sheffield Hallam team, using a Grow MedTech Proof of Feasibility grant, is developing an exercise programme for the machines based on clinical principles, that will help people with stroke to increase their endurance and strength.

    They’re also developing bespoke software for the machines, that will integrate the exercise programme and provide feedback to users. 

    The project has been working with patients to develop the programme and software, and the system will be trialled with 15 stroke patients, and then further refined based on their experience. 

    Positive feedback 

    Exercise programmes can be hard to maintain when patients are not seeing any improvement and this can demotivate them to maintain exercise regimes or lifestyle changes. 

    It is also important to be able to monitor certain conditions that affect movement, such as osteoarthritis. With a long-term progressive disease such as this, it can be hard to accurately monitor how a patient is doing over time.

    A project led by Dr Adar Pelah at the University of York, and involving a team of academics, clinicians and an industrial partner, is using gait analysis (pictured above) to look at how the way a patient walks changes when the patient develops musculoskeletal disorders such as osteoarthritis.

    Whilst the technology has value as a diagnostic tool, being able to pick up the condition at an early stage, it can also be used to monitor how the disease is progressing and if there are any improvements, perhaps due to a lifestyle change or therapy.

    This gives doctors the evidence to select the most appropriate treatment and encourage patients to, for example, continue to lose weight or carry on with an exercise programme.   

    The team, which involves the University of York and Cambridge University Hospitals, used Grow MedTech funding to carry out a market appraisal and identify the best routes to commercialisation.

    They also received a grant from the Medical Research Council to carry out a clinical trial – currently underway at Addenbrookes Hospital and in York.

    The ultimate aim is to create a handheld device that can be used easily by GPs or nurses, with patients simply walking across the room without the need for any specialist equipment. 

    Making recovery fun 

    Of course, it’s not only older people who benefit from rehabilitative and assistive technologies – many are developed for children too.  

    Children in particular can struggle to maintain physiotherapy exercises when recovering from injury or disease. By their very nature, these are repetitive and even for adults can be pretty tedious.  

    A team from Sheffield Hallam University have found a way to make such exercises more fun and encourage repetition by turning them into a virtual reality (VR) game

    Using a Proof of Concept grant, the team, led by Ivan Phelan, has been working with patients and health professionals to develop a suite of VR games to support upper limb rehabilitation in children and adults, for use in the clinic and at home. 

    The games can include climbing a tower or pulling an arrow from a quiver, putting it into a bow and shooting at a target. 

    These are now being tested by patients both in the clinic, at Sheffield Children’s Hospital and Leeds Teaching Hospitals, and at home.

    We’re also working with the team to develop a business plan and market assessment to identify potential industry collaborators to take the technology forward. 

    Putting patients first 

    A common thread for all these technologies is that they have developed their prototypes in a user-centred way, involving the patients right from the start. 

    I’m a firm believer – and of course, it’s a central philosophy at Grow MedTech – that all technologies, even those that patients might never see, like a surgical scalpel, should involve patients in their development.

    The reason is simple – it’s ultimately patients who will be affected once these technologies come into use. One big difference with rehabilitative and assistive technologies is that patients are usually the ones physically touching the technologies, not the clinicians. 

    This makes it much easier for those developing the technologies, as patients are keener to be involved in projects where they can see an immediate connection for them. 

    A good example of this is a project at the University of Huddersfield which is involving patients – children – at a really early stage. Dr Sohel Rana is an expert in materials science, working with composites that involve natural materials, such as cellulose or basalt. 

    Although he usually works with the aeronautics, motor manufacturing and construction sectors, he’s now applying his expertise to look at prosthetics for children who have had lower limbs amputated.

    Many prosthetics for children are just mini versions of those created for adults, but in fact, they need different properties.  Thanks to help from Grow MedTech, Dr Rana has teamed up with Devices4Dignity who already have a patient group. 

    Together, they are working with children to find out what properties they like and want, in terms of strength, flexibility and weight, so Dr Rana can tailor a material to match. 

    Rehabilitative and assistive technologies are an exciting field to work in, precisely because of the amazing impact they can have on patient’s lives.

    And that transformation should also result in big changes to how healthcare can be delivered and how effective it can be, helping our hard-pressed NHS as well. 

  2. Using light for accurate diagnosis

    Early and accurate diagnosis can make the difference between life and death. But for many diseases, diagnostic tools that can pick up disease at an early stage either do not exist, are imprecise or are limited to use in hospitals and specialist centres.  

    Grow MedTech is supporting Dr Yvette Hancock, Associate Professor from the University of York’s School of Physics and Enterprise Fellow at the Centre for Future Health, to develop a diagnostic tool with the potential to work across a range of diseases and in different healthcare settings.

    The tool uses a technique called Raman spectroscopy to analyse blood samples, whereby carefully controlled laser light is beamed at the sample and interacts with the molecules within it. 

    This interaction changes the signature of the light that scatters back, providing a ‘molecular fingerprint’ of what the sample contains. 

    Dr Hancock has been working with clinical teams and academic partners at Guy’s Hospital and King’s College, London, as well as the instrumentation company Horiba UK, to develop a portable Raman spectrometer that could be used in a clinical setting.

    But with so many potential applications for the technology, the team turned to Grow MedTech to help them identify the best route for clinical application and commercialisation. 

    Market analysis 

    Grow MedTech Proof of Market funding allowed Dr Hancock to commission the York Health Economics Consortium to assess the potential markets and health-benefit potential for the technology. Based on this analysis, the team decided to focus its efforts initially on prostate cancer. 

    Prostate cancer is currently screened using the PSA blood test and a GP examination. Because the PSA test has limited accuracy, it can lead to further testing such as a biopsy, which can have adverse side-effects, as well as late diagnosis when cancer is missed.  

    “We wanted to develop the technology to have the biggest impact possible and prostate cancer is an urgent area of need,” explains Dr Hancock.

    “It is the second most common cause of cancer death for men in the UK, with around 48,000 men diagnosed each year, and with incidence rates on the rise. 

    But our ability to accurately screen for it is still pretty poor, so an easy and accurate test would be a gamechanger for detecting prostate cancer at the earliest stage possible.” 

    Dr Hancock is now developing the diagnostic tool to not only accurately pick up cases of prostate cancer, but also to identify whether the cancer is an aggressive type and to what stage the disease has progressed, allowing for the best possible means of early detection of the disease. 

    Clinical studies 

    She has already proven that the technology can accurately diagnose prostate cancer in human cells in the laboratory. Grow MedTech is now helping to fund two studies to validate the technology in blood samples.

    The first is a clinical trial at Guy’s Hospital in London, testing the technology against samples from prostate cancer patients. A parallel control study is underway at the University of York with samples from healthy donors. 

    “Grow MedTech have been crucial in taking this project forward,” says Dr Hancock. “We’d already built a strong team, with industrial, clinical and academic partners, but the market analysis we gained through Grow MedTech was critical in helping us to focus our efforts more effectively. 

    The clinical trial, if successful, will help us take the technology to the next stage.”  

  3. MedTech engineering – an indispensable part of healthcare

    Over the last few months, the importance of medtech engineering has been brought into the public consciousness as never before. Engineering companies – from Formula 1 teams to Dyson – have stepped forward to increase the production of ventilators and protective equipment, to help the NHS deal with the coronavirus.

    While it will be medical science, through vaccines, tests and treatments that provides an eventual route out of the crisis, engineering has proved critical to the immediate response. 

    The range of engineering companies involved has emphasized the multidisciplinary nature of medtech engineering. It draws on nearly all facets of engineering – chemical, electrical, mechanical, materials and more. But it must also work in tandem with medical expertise, to ensure that the engineering solutions proposed properly meet clinical needs.  

    At the University of Bradford, we’ve helped to build such a multidisciplinary team, bringing together three academics from different parts of the University to work together on developing synthetic vascular implants. 

    The aim is to enable surgeons to avoid taking blood vessels from other parts of the body for use in bypass surgery. Dr Farshid Sefat from the School of Engineering, Dr Jacobo Elies from Pharmacy and Medical Sciences and Dr Kirsten Riches-Suman from Chemistry and Biosciences have teamed up with two clinicians from Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust to take their project forward.

    They are using a Grow MedTech Proof of Market grant to look at the commercial and market opportunities in this highly competitive field. Their aim is to develop an implant into which the body’s own cells will migrate, to help it work as effectively as blood vessels taken from the patient. 

    Tackling healthcare challenges 

    Engineering has always been part of the solution for healthcare and is becoming more important with the huge challenges now faced by our healthcare systems: rising costs, pressure on quality and safety, an aging population and growing numbers with chronic conditions, to name but a few.

    MedTech engineering is helping us to tackle the broad challenges that affect us all, but it is also being brought to bear on more specific challenges where, although fewer stand to benefit, the potential impacts are life-changing. 

    At the University of York, for example, researchers are developing tissue engineering and biomaterials approaches to help treat hypospadias, a common genetic condition where boys are born with their urine hole in an abnormal position on the penis.

    Surgery to correct the condition has mixed results, due to the lack of native tissue at the repair site.  Professor Jennifer Southgate, in collaboration with colleagues from Leeds, has developed a means of removing cells from pig bladders to create a material with similar properties to the natural tissue for use in such surgical reconstructions.

    With the help of Grow MedTech, she is now working with NHS Blood and Transplant to adapt the technique for donor human bladders. This will avoid some of the regulatory hurdles associated with the use of animal tissue to enable this material to reach the clinic much faster. 

    A rich heritage 

    The UK has a rich heritage in medical technologies. The use of nuclear magnetic resonance for imaging and diagnostics was pioneered in the UK – and many millions now benefit from MRI scans across the world. 

    The UK was a pioneer too in orthopaedics, particularly joint replacements, and in the use of ultrasound.  Initially, a technology used only for diagnosis and observation, especially pre-natal, ultrasound is now used for treating disease – as well as for many non-healthcare applications. 

    One such application developed by researchers at the University of Leeds involved using ultrasound to monitor nuclear waste. Now a team led by Dr James McLaughlan is being supported by Grow MedTech to use his expertise in this field for the treatment of cancer.

    His work uses high-intensity focused ultrasound, or HIFU.  HIFU focuses ultrasound beams to a tiny area, the size of a grain of rice, which heats and so kills cancerous tissue.

    Dr McLaughlan aims to develop a device that a surgeon could use both to identify and treat head and neck cancers without damaging any health tissue.

    Grow MedTech funding will enable Dr McLaughlan to build and test a prototype device, engage with patients and map out the regulatory and market pathway for the technology. 

    A national and regional strength 

    The UK’s medical technology sector – in which medtech engineering plays a central role –  accounts for six percent of the sector globally. And the Leeds and Sheffield City Regions have a concentration of medical technology companies and university research in this field, which Grow MedTech is helping to leverage. 

    All our partner universities have strengths in medical engineering, particularly the largest institution in the consortium, the University of Leeds. Healthcare technologies make up almost 20 percent of Leeds’ research portfolio, with particular expertise in medical and surgical engineering, wearable devices, bioelectronics, imaging and robotics.

    It is surely no coincidence that the University has such a large Faculty of Engineering. Also important are Leeds’ close links to the teaching hospitals in the city, which help ensure clinical input on all medical engineering research. 

    Leeds Teaching Hospitals, for example, runs one of the largest in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) clinics in the UK, and its clinical director, Professor Adam Balen is a partner in a project at the University of Leeds to develop new methods to maintain the viability of human embryos during IVF.

    Dr Virginia Pensabene in collaboration with Prof Helen Picton is developing a device for use in IVF that provides a safe, closed and precisely regulated microenvironment, more closely resembling an embryo’s natural growing conditions. This will provide an alternative to the current system, which sees embryos grown in open plastic dishes, overlaid with a potentially toxic mineral oil.

    Grow MedTech funding is enabling the project team to assess the safety and toxicity of different materials for their device and validate the most promising. Key to the project is user engagement: with patients, the public as well as embryologists at other IVF clinics. 

    Our healthcare system pledges to care for us from cradle to grave and healthcare and medical engineering plays a role at every stage: from the pre-natal care to supporting the elderly; from diagnostics to improving public health. 

    The current crisis has brought the role of medtech engineering, usually invisible to the majority of patients, suddenly into full view. Once the crisis is behind us, hopefully, that visibility will remain. 

  4. £100k project will see AI used to speed up ADHD diagnosis

    With support from Grow MedTech, Professor Grigoris Antoniou (pictured above) is working with the South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis in adults.

    ADHD in adults

    It has been estimated that 1.5 million UK adults have ADHD, leading to a wide range of difficulties, jeopardising careers and relationships.  Treatments are available, but diagnosis by the hard-pressed NHS can be slow.

    Now, Professor Grigoris Antoniou at the University of Huddersfield has harnessed AI to speed up the process.

    ADHD in adults has emotional symptoms that include extreme irritability, low self-esteem and sense of insecurity, trouble staying motivated and hypersensitivity to criticism.

    These issues can result in poor organisational skills, trouble starting and finishing projects and chronic lateness.  The Royal College of Psychiatrists has also said that people with the disorder were more likely to be involved in criminal behaviour or become suicidal.

    Using AI to achieve a diagnosis

    Professor Antoniou is a globally-acknowledged expert in AI and has already helped to develop its potential to predict suicide risk in mental health patients.

    He has now continued his research collaboration with the South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (SWYPFT) in order to show how the technology can be used to help diagnose ADHD in adults and whether further treatment is warranted.

    “There are long and growing waiting lists and as people wait to be diagnosed and treated and this can result in adverse effects on their work, their social life and their family life,” said Professor Antoniou, adding that a reason for the lengthening waiting time is that there are few specialist clinicians able to do a full diagnosis.

    “So, we set out to use AI to provide help with decisions.  The idea is that the AI technology will be able to identify the clear-cut cases.  In many cases, the data itself more or less tells us whether it is a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ for further treatment.

    “The technology is fully embedded in a clinical pathway which ensures there will always be a clinician who can over-ride what the AI says,” continued Professor Antoniou.

    The procedure

    The procedure is that the data routinely collected prior to ADHD diagnosis is fed into an AI algorithm.  Three outcomes are the result: yes or no to further treatment or an unclear result that requires further assessment of the patient.

    Professor Antoniou explained that two AI technologies had been harnessed for the project.

    “One is machine learning-based.  We took data from previous cases and trained a prediction model.  The second method is knowledge-based.  We worked with clinical experts and asked what their diagnosis would be if they are faced with this data.  We then encoded this knowledge.”

    The AI solution to diagnosis has been co-developed by Professor Antoniou with his collaborator Professor Marios Adamou, consultant psychiatrist at the South West Yorkshire NHS Trust and Visiting Professor at the University of Huddersfield.

    “It is the close interplay of AI and medical expertise that has made this development possible,” Professor Antoniou said, “and it is important to have such interdisciplinary collaborations between computer science and health science at Huddersfield.”


    This news item was written by the University of Huddersfield, click here to view the original article.

  5. Opportunities to provide support for COVID-19

    We know that many in our medtech community are eager to provide support for frontline healthcare workers in light of the challenges that they are currently experiencing.

    To make it easier to find opportunities to contribute, we’ll continually update this page* with relevant calls posted by our partners so that you have them all in one place.

    *Page last updated on Friday 17 July 2020.


    Travel and subsistence to support low and middle-income country engagement

    The awards will provide travel and subsistence funding to appropriately qualified public health professionals, clinicians and academics who wish to offer science and technical advice to support the immediate response to COVID-19 in low and middle-income countries.

    The awards are open to applicants who have a substantive position at a UK higher education institution or research organisation.

    Applications are open until further notice, on a rolling basis. Applications should ideally be submitted at least 2 weeks before planned travel.

    Click here for more details.


    Coronavirus business innovation support package

    Up to £210 million is available in continuity loans to SMEs and third sector organisations that have a challenge in continuing a live project for which they are have an award from Innovate UK.

    Loans are for organisations that that find themselves facing a sudden shortage or even unavailability of funds resulting directly from the COVID-19 pandemic.

    This innovation continuity loan may be suitable if you need funding of between £250,000 and £1,600,000. 

    This continuity loan funding will be open until all the funds are allocated or until 31st December 2020, whichever is sooner.

    For more details of the funding available, click here.


    Merck Research Grant for Pandemic Preparedness

    Merck are offering a grant comprising up to 500,000 €/year for 3 years, with the option of extension.

    Proposals will be considered that leverage technological solutions to be more prepared for pandemic outbreaks or solutions that could help to fight emerging viral infections.

    There is no fixed deadline for the Pandemic Preparedness funding, since applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis.

    Click here to learn more.


    Coronavirus Future Fund (investor-matched loans)

    The Future Fund scheme is offering loans ranging from £125,000 to £5 million to innovative UK companies with good potential, that typically rely on equity investment and are currently affected by COVID-19.

    The scheme, designed by government and delivered by the British Business Bank, aims to help these companies through the current period of economic disruption and the recovery, so they are able to continue their growth trajectory and reach their full economic potential.

    Amounts of Future Fund loans must be at least matched by co-investment from investors.

    Application deadline: 30 September 2020

    Click here to learn more about the scheme and how to apply.


    Sustainable Innovation Fund: Round 1 (Temporary Framework)

    Innovate UK, as part of UK Research and Innovation, is investing up to £55 million to fund single and collaborative research and development projects as part of the Sustainable Innovation Fund.

    Proposed projects must have a total eligible costs between £100,000 and £500,000. Each organisation working alone or in a collaboration can claim a maximum of £175,000.

    The aim of this competition is to help all sectors of the UK rebuild after the effects of Covid-19.

    All projects must be led by a business and include at least one SME. Proposals can either be from a single business or a collaboration.

    Proposals must show evidence of key challenges as a direct consequence of COVID-19, and how your project can help solve them.

    An online briefing event which provides additional information about this call was held on 3 July 2020, and a link to the recording can be found here.

    Deadline for applications: 29 July 2020.

    Click here to learn more about the call and how to apply.


    UKRI GCRF/Newton Fund Agile Response call to address COVID-19

    Proposals are invited for short-term projects addressing and mitigating the health, social, economic, cultural and environmental impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak in Low and Middle-Income Countries.

    This call is funded through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and the Newton Fund which seeks to address global challenges through disciplinary and interdisciplinary research, and strengthen capability for research and innovation within both the UK and developing countries.

    There is no specific budget for this call, instead the funders are interested in supporting research of any scale that can demonstrate it will deliver impact during the lifetime of the project.

    Click here to learn more.


    Research projects to help improve the understanding and management of COVID-19 in people living with HIV

    ViiV Healthcare has announced a Request for Research Proposals for Investigator Sponsored Studies (ISS).

    This call supports basic and clinical research studies within specific areas of interest, with the goal of improving understanding and management of the COVID-19 pandemic in people living with HIV.

    Click here to learn more.


    Call for research on the risk factors, transmission and prevalence of COVID-19

    A call for research proposals on the risk factors, transmission and prevalence of COVID-19 has been launched by UKRI and the NIHR.

    The research funded will help inform policy decisions during the pandemic, including possible decisions about infection prevention strategies and relaxation of existing containment measures.

    Learn more about the call here.


    COVID-19 Protein Portal provides essential reagents for COVID-19 research

    A new initiative, led by Wellcome and UKRI, will allow UK scientists to access protein reagents needed for critical research relating to SARS-CoV-2 free of charge from a consortium of leading protein production laboratories.

    The COVID-19 Protein Portal contains a searchable database of reagents, including viral proteins, human proteins and antibodies relevant for SARS-CoV-2 biology. Each reagent is annotated with key information, including sequence, origin, and SDS-page results.

    To access the reagents, researchers select the proteins they require from the database and submit their request with a short research proposal. All requests will be subject to rapid peer review, to enable the coordination and prioritisation of reagent allocation based on scientific merit and the urgency of the request.

    Once approved, a request will be allocated to one of the CPPC’s expert protein production laboratories, all of whom are committed to providing high-quality reagents as quickly as possible.

    Click here to learn more.


    NIHR-BHF cardiovascular partnership COVID-19 research

    The NIHR-BHF Cardiovascular Partnership are now welcoming proposals from the cardiovascular research community for COVID-19 flagship projects.

    The flagship projects selected through this framework will be put forward for national approval and the NIHR-BHF team will look to leaders of infrastructure to support the research that is approved within their centres.

    Click here to learn about the opportunity and how to submit a proposal.


    Highlight notice – COVID-19 and ethnicity

    There is emerging evidence of an association between ethnicity and COVID-19 incidence and adverse health outcomes. There are also concerns that healthcare and other key workers who belong to black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups may be particularly at risk.

    To further understand this correlation, UKRI and NIHR welcome research proposals in two areas: 

    1. Impact of COVID-19 and association between ethnicity and COVID-19 in the general population.
    2. Impact of COVID-19 specifically on people working in health and social care from BAME backgrounds.

    Research could include:

    • Studies to improve our understanding of genetic risk factors and how these manifest clinically, including in terms of immune responses to COVID-19 infection.
    • Secondary analysis of existing datasets to understand underpinning reasons for a disparity in outcomes for certain ethnic groups: underlying health conditions, multiple long-term conditions, lifestyle risk factors, deprivation, access and inequalities. The aim is, if possible, to identify modifiable risk factors.
    • Understanding and optimising behavioural responses to public health measures, including how to influence individuals and communities to make the behavioural or lifestyle changes necessary to reduce risk.
    • Mental health and how communities are responding to the crisis. This can include exacerbation of pre-existing mental health conditions and concomitant consequences, combined with support or interventions to improve health outcomes.

    This highlight notice will be supported through the joint UKRI-NIHR COVID-19 rapid response rolling call. Details of this call, including eligibility and how to apply, are available on the NIHR website.

    This is a rolling call so there is no set deadline for applications.


    Diamond’s Rapid Access Call for Proposals

    Diamond is offering researchers access to their instruments in an effort to support research which brings us closer to an effective vaccine or treatment for COVID-19.

    Based on the number and nature of requests for priority rapid access, Diamond will make every effort to satisfy research priorities.

    Submit a proposal for COVID-19 related research using the rapid access form here.


    New solutions needed to support target of 100,000 COVID-19 tests per day

    A new web platform has been set up by the Department of Health and Social Care, the UK Bioindustry Association, British In Vitro Diagnostics Association and the Royal College of Pathologists to support the drive to achieve 100,000 coronavirus tests per day by the end of April.

    In addition to scaling up existing technologies and channels, the government is looking for innovative solutions in specific areas. Solutions, ideas and comments can be uploaded to the platform, focusing on four key challenges:

    1. Dry swabs for use in virus detection – availability of swabs is essential to speed up testing;
    2. Transport media that inactivates the virus – increasing laboratory throughput and minimising processes including the need to handle test samples;
    3. Desktop PCR equipment for Point of Care Testing – using machines that enable fast, accurate and safe results for the operator;
    4. RNA extraction – new ‘ready to go’ methods of extracting viral RNA or enabling viral detection without an extraction step that can be integrated into PCR testing chains.

    Learn more about the call here.


    UKRI/NIHR COVID-19 rapid response initiative – rolling call

    Building on the initial calls of their Initiative, DHSC, through the NIHR, and UKRI are jointly launching a rolling call for proposals for rapid research into COVID-19.

    This call is to support UK-led academic, SME and wider industry research that will address a wide range of COVID-19 knowledge gaps/needs, and which will lead to a benefit in UK, and potentially international, public health within 12 months.

    Eligibility

    Academic Principal Investigators applying for this call must be hosted by a UK institution which is eligible for UKRI funding.

    Applications from SMEs (including start-up or ‘spin-out’ companies), government arms-length bodies, and NHS organisations (including NHS Trusts and NHS Foundation Trusts), and equivalent UK authorities are also encouraged in alignment with NIHR funding policies, where these organisations are the lead applicant.

    Awards to UK-based, non-SME commercial entities will be also considered.

    Click here for all details about the call, and to apply.


    Royal Academy of Engineering response to COVID-19

    The Royal Academy of Engineering is keen to help identify potential solutions and facilitate useful contacts across its national and international engineering networks that could help our governments solve problems and assist the public health response.

    There is an immediate need for ventilator manufacture, but they want to encourage innovation and ideas across all areas, including healthcare systems, critical infrastructure, business management and supply chain.

    If you don’t feel able to respond to the specific requests below, there are still ways that you as an engineering professional can help with the effort to address the coronavirus, you can get in touch with the UK’s Royal Society via their online form.

    • If you have an academic background (PhD candidate or higher): sign up as a rapid reviewer for the UK’s Royal Society registered reports
    • If you use a computer: download Folding@home to harness your computer’s power in the fight against COVID-19

    Defense and Security Accelerator open call competition

    The Defense and Security Accelerator (DASA) is currently seeking any idea or novel approach that could boost the Ministry of Defence’s capabilities in support of the national effort against Coronavirus (Covid-19).

    Proposals should be clear as to whether they seek to address the current COVID-19 threat or future similar scenarios. Proposals addressing the current pandemic must have the ability or relevant permissions to successfully deliver the project despite current working restrictions.

    Proposals for products or services that are already available on the market to solve challenges related to the coronavirus pandemic will not be considered. 

    No funding limit is specified, however, proposals must demonstrate value for money. In addition, proposals for work completed on or before 31 March 2021 are in scope, but those that offer faster delivery are preferred.

    Click here to learn more.


    US Department of Defence offers funding for research of emerging viral diseases and respiratory health

    The US Department of Defense, under its peer-reviewed medical research programme, invites applications for its investigator-initiated research award for emerging viral diseases and respiratory health.

    This supports studies that will make an important contribution toward research or patient care in the areas of emerging viral diseases and respiratory health. Research must address at least one of the emerging viral diseases or respiratory health focus areas related to COVID-19 and acute respiratory distress syndrome.

    Projects may focus on any phase of research from basic laboratory research through to translational research but must have the potential to yield highly impactful data that could lead to critical discoveries or major advancements.

    Independent investigators at or above the level of Assistant Professor based at any organisation anywhere in the world may apply. 

    Click here to learn more.


    National Institutes of Health offers administrative supplements for research on COVID-19

    The National Library of Medicine invites applications for its notice of special interest – administrative supplements for research on COVID-19 funding opportunity.

    Research is expected to focus on informatics and data science methods to help address the COVID-19 pandemic and should address one of the following areas of interest:

    • methods for mining clinical data that can be used to identify or predict the presence of COVID-19 in biomedical phenotype data;
    • public health surveillance methods that mine genomic, viromic, health data, environmental data or data from other pertinent sources to identify the spread and impact of SARS-Cov-2.

    UK institutions are eligible to apply, but must already hold an active parent award.

    Click here to learn more.


    Find out how to get your study nationally supported or funded as high priority COVID-19 Urgent Public Health Research

    COVID-19 Urgent Public Health Research is being prioritised to gather the necessary clinical and epidemiological evidence that will inform national policy and enable new diagnostic tests, treatments and vaccines to be developed and tested for COVID-19.

    Government support is available to prioritise, coordinate and deliver these studies, regardless of sponsorship and funding source. This support includes expedited identification of sites to ensure appropriate geographical distribution of Urgent Public Health Research to maximise recruitment and minimise over-commitment of resource.

    Learn more about this support opportunity here.


    UKRI funding call: Ideas to address COVID-19

    UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) are inviting proposals for short-term projects addressing and mitigating the health, social, economic, cultural and environmental impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak.

    UKRI will support excellent proposals of 12-18 months duration which meet at least one of the following:

    • new research or innovation with a clear impact pathway that has the potential (within the period of the grant) to deliver a significant contribution to the understanding of, and response to, the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts.
    • supports the manufacture and/or wide scale adoption of an intervention with significant potential
    • gathers critical data and resources quickly for future research use

    Applications can be submitted at any time, see the UKRI website for full details.


    Government issues call for registrations to COVID-19 Outbreak Expert Database

    In this rapidly evolving situation, Parliament needs quick access to researchers who can provide expert insights relating to both Coronavirus and its impacts.

    Parliament and Parliamentarians use these insights to help carry out their function effectively; that is to say, to represent the people, scrutinise the Government, debate important and pressing issues and pass legislation.

    To speed up the process of Parliament accessing relevant research expertise, Parliament’s Knowledge Exchange Unit (KEU) are creating a COVID-19 Outbreak Expert Database.

    If you feel you have any expertise relating to the COVID-19 outbreak or its impacts, the KEU would be very grateful if you would sign up to the database.

    Signing up does not commit you to contribute in any way, it’s simply so that Parliament has your details to hand and can contact you very rapidly; if they contact you and you aren’t able to respond, they will fully understand.

    You can find the link to the sign-up form here here.


    Surgical MedTech Co-operative “PPE Challenge”

    The Surgical MIC has just launched its PPE Challenge to protect front line workers from COVID-19 and keep health services functioning.

    They have a team of clinicians and academics on standby to receive your challenges and solutions. Once they receive your entries, this team will prioritise those challenges and solutions in an effort to get them to the frontline during this pandemic. 

    • If you want to be involved in evaluating challenges and solutions, then please contact the Surgical MIC by emailing surgicalmic@leeds.ac.uk.
    • If you are a company and you have technology that could be adapted quickly for the healthcare setting, then they would also like to hear from you.
    • Challenges or solutions can be submitted using this form.

    They will be updating their website with the challenges they receive. If you work within the NHS and would like to lead on any of the ideas presented, then please contact them by emailing surgicalmic@leeds.ac.uk.


    Expired opportunities


    COVID-19 and mental health*

    *the application deadline for this opportunity has now passed.

    Mental health research is critical to better understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on psychological, psychiatric and social functioning, and how to effectively mitigate this impact.

    This highlight notice by UKRI is to call for research proposals with potential for significant public mental health impact within 12 months and encourage proposals focussing on preventative approaches/interventions.

    The aim is to reduce the emergence of new, and exacerbation of existing, mental health problems, and to improve outcomes for those whose mental health has already been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Deadline for applications: Monday 22 June 2020

    Click here to learn more about the call and how to apply.


    £150,000 competition for Covid-19 digital solutions*

    *the application deadline for this opportunity has now passed.

    Welsh Government have announced a new funding competition for digital solutions to help fight Covid-19. The competition is being supported by Digital Health Ecosystem Wales and funding is available for between five and eight projects to rapidly pilot products and solutions.

    The competition is open to any UK business who has a digital solution to fight COVID-19. The solution must be developed and ready for testing during the application process. All solutions must tackle one of four themed areas:

    • Remote diagnosis and triage of patients
    • Optimising data collection and analysis
    • Tracking, managing and reporting hospital personal protective equipment (PPE) inventory
    • Remote citizen support and treatment

    The deadline for applications is Monday 8 June 2020 at 9 am. Click here to learn more.


    Research to support COVID-19 response in humanitarian settings*

    *the application deadline for this opportunity has now passed.

    Elrha is launching an urgent funding call for research proposals to support the COVID-19 response in humanitarian settings.

    The call aims to fund public health research that will produce robust findings that will contribute to the effectiveness of the current humanitarian response and increase the evidence base for future responses to similar infectious disease outbreaks.

    Proposals must demonstrate how findings will directly inform the response to the current COVID-19 outbreak in humanitarian settings such as refugee camps or conflict-affected countries (e.g. in Syria, Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia etc.).

    Applications will be reviewed in rounds with deadlines as follows:

    • Round 1: 18.00 (GMT+1) on 13 April 2020
    • Round 2: 18.00 (GMT+1) on 20 April 2020
    • Round 3: 18.00 (GMT+1) on 4 May 2020

    Click here to learn more.


    NIHR Product Development Awards*

    *the application deadline for this opportunity has now passed.

    Invention for Innovation (i4i) Product Development Awards (PDA) support innovations at any stage of the translational research and development pathway, including the clinical development of laboratory-validated technologies or interventions.

    The i4i funding programme is participating in the 2020 NIHR Themed Call: ‘Injuries, accidents and urgent and emergency care’. For more information please see the specification document on the themed calls NIHR website.

    This funding stream is researcher-led and does not specify topics for research. Research proposals must include applicants from two organisation types: an NHS Trust, higher education institution or small-to-medium-sized enterprise (SME). There is no upper funding limit for Product Development Awards, but costs must be fully justified. Projects can be up to three years in duration.

    The deadline for applications is 3 June 2020. Click here to learn more.


    Microsoft AI for Health COVID-19 Grant*

    *the application deadline for this opportunity has now passed.

    Microsoft is accepting requests for the AI for Health programme for COVID-19 grant proposals from non-profits, academia, and governments. A focused effort for COVID-19 grant requests only, Microsoft will accept grants until 15 June 2020.

    This grant programme provides Azure cloud and High-Performance Computing capabilities, as well as Microsoft’s team of AI for Health data science experts, whose mission is to improve the health of people and communities worldwide for collaborations with COVID-19 researchers as they tackle this critical challenge.

    Click here to learn more about the grant and to submit an application.


    Patient & Public involvement in COVID-19 studies*

    *the application deadline for this opportunity has now passed.

    Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust (LTHT) is at the forefront of the national agenda in undertaking strategic research to:

    • access to new, effective treatments for patients
    • understand the nature of the virus and how it behaves
    • improve diagnosis

    In the coming weeks and months LTHT anticipate that they will be asked to send out a number of Patient Involvement Opportunities (PIO) relating to COVID -19.

    This is likely to include surveys, patient information sheets to read and give feedback on, proposals for research studies to review etc. The timescales for feedback will most likely differ with what they would usually ask due to the speed that they are currently trying to establish new studies.

    If you would like to hear about opportunities to get involved with PIO, complete the Patient and Public Involvement in COVID-19 Research details at the very bottom of this page on their website, and submit your details by Wednesday 22nd April.


    Business-led innovation in response to global disruption (de minimise)*

    *the application deadline for this opportunity has now passed.

    Innovate UK, as part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), will invest up to £20 million in innovation projects.

    The aim of this competition is to support UK businesses to focus on emerging or increasing needs of society and industries during and following the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Applications must demonstrate both realistic and significant benefits for society (including communities, families and individuals) or an industry that has been severely impacted and/or permanently disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

    You must have the ability to deliver the project during the working restrictions of COVID-19 pandemic. As part of this grant, you can claim 100% of project costs up to the maximum of £50,000. These will be paid in advance of the project start date.

    Projects will be monitored and evaluated by Innovate UK during implementation with a view to providing follow-on funding and support for those with the most potential for impact.

    To learn more about the call, and for detailed guidance on how to submit an application, visit the funding page by clicking here.

    The competition closes at midday 12 noon, 17 April 2020.

  6. Grow MedTech activity update in light of COVID-19

    We know that the ongoing situation regarding COVID-19 is having a significant impact on the medtech community.

    We want to reassure you that we are working hard to understand the challenges of this changing landscape, and that we will continue to provide you with innovation support as safely and effectively as possible. Our work on this matter is already in motion, and we will provide regular updates as the situation evolves.

    Please see below for more specific updates on activities and previously advertised opportunities:


    Active Grow MedTech-funded projects

    We are fully committed to continual support for our ongoing projects. We are aware that given current circumstances, research across our partner universities is being halted, and clinical and industry partners may be prioritising other activities in the short term. This, in turn, could have a knock-on effect on Grow MedTech-funded projects.

    We urge all project teams to maintain contact with your Technology Innovation Manager, who can be reached using the contact information listed on their website profiles. In the first instance, inform them of the impacts that the current situation may have on your projects, if any, and the implications.

    Your Technology Innovation Manager can aid you in identifying work packages that may be more suitable for remote working and can help you update and amend the agreed project plans accordingly.

    We can grant short no-cost extensions until March 2021 for projects that are currently underway. If this is an option that you’re considering, inform your Technology Innovation Manager as soon as possible. 

    Where no-cost extensions aren’t a viable option, inform your Technology Innovation Manager of your challenges so that they can work with you to determine the best way forward.

    If you have received Proof of Feasibility or Proof of Concept project funding and your project has not started already, we suggest that you delay the start date, again informing your Technology Innovation Manager of your plans and any implications that this may cause. 


    Proof of Feasibility funding calls

    We have made the difficult decision to pause all active Proof of Feasibility calls.

    We understand that this will be a huge disappointment to those of you that have already spent time developing projects and drafting applications.

    However, we recognise that many of you will be facing unknown delays as a result of lab closures and project partners will potentially, at least in the short term, be prioritising their focus elsewhere in response to the crisis.

    We need to have an understanding of what is required for us to complete existing projects – and what will be possible to deliver – before confirming the start of new projects.

    However, our Technology Innovation Managers are still on hand to work with you to understand your technology development and innovation needs and identify the right partners within our regions to help you build a successful collaboration for the future – click here to view their profiles and obtain their contact details.


    Proof of Market funding call

    We are continuing to run our Proof of Market funding call at present. If you are interested in applying, please contact a Technology Innovation Manager in the first instance to discuss further – click here to view their profiles and obtain their contact details.

    Application forms will continue to be reviewed monthly and should be emailed to info@growmed.tech by 12 noon on the 15th of the month for review in that month’s review meeting.

    Further details on the call can be found here.


    Translate MedTech secondment scheme

    The Translate MedTech secondment scheme is still going ahead, with the deadline for applications being extended until 12 noon, 3 April 2020.

    We will be urging all awardees to follow government advice and only start their secondments when appropriate to do so. If you have any questions, queries or concerns, please get in touch with Mohua Siddique.


    Translate MedTech training courses

    We are currently exploring whether all remaining courses can be delivered online after having successfully delivered our Business Case Planning and Pitching course this way.

    You can still sign up for a place on any of the remaining courses via our events page, and anyone that has registered will be kept informed about their delivery.


    We will continue to monitor and review our activities in these unprecedented times and will ensure to communicate any updates through our usual channels – please ensure you are signed up to our mailing list to get the most up-to-date information.

    If you have any questions or concerns that aren’t covered by the above and relate to disruptions you’re experiencing while engaging with one of our services, please get in touch with us by emailing info@growmed.tech.

  7. Industry and academic experts partner to create new 3D burn imaging device for more effective treatment

    A Grow MedTech-funded partnership between University of York academic Prof Roddy Vann, and industry-partner Sylatech is developing a new technology capable of capturing 3D imaging of burns.

    This will result in more comprehensive mapping of burn severity, more targeted treatments, and reduced healing times and scarring.

    Over 13,000 people in the UK are referred to specialist burn units each year; 50% of which are admitted for ongoing treatment.

    Burns can be a complex injury to treat since their severity is determined by the area and depth of the injury, which can continue to develop over the first 72 hours after injury, and vary widely across the wound.

    Accurate, rapid and repeated assessment of a burn injury is crucial for choosing an effective treatment course for the best patient outcomes.

    Currently, a procedure called Laser Doppler Imaging (LDI), which measures blood flow in the wound, is considered best practice for assessing burns, but a major limitation of LDI is that it can only provide an accurate assessment after a burn has stabilised.

    Cost and usability issues can restrict the use of LDI and so in many cases, a visual inspection of burns, where healthcare professionals rely solely on their own experience to assess the severity of the burn and decide the best treatment, is carried out instead.

    The solution

    A team led by Professor Roddy Vann, in the York Plasma Institute at the University of York, is currently working on a prototype device that is capable of producing accurate 3D images of burns by measuring microwaves naturally emitted by the body.

    If successful, this device could greatly advance research into burn progression through direct imaging of the damaged area.

    Microwave imaging of burns has been considered in scientific literature since the 1970s but technical challenges have so far limited its translation into the clinic.

    The device being developed is innovative in that it combines recent advances in the design of antennas and ultra-fast data acquisition with the potential to make microwave medical imaging both technically and commercially viable.

    Scientists from industry partner, Sylatech, are co-inventors of the technology, working alongside Grow MedTech and the York team to commercialise the technology.

    Working closely with industry from an early stage is always important and the link with Sylatech is particularly strong, having grown from its early days as a Knowledge Transfer Partnership.

    The partnership has been dedicated to creating an impactful technology for end-users, having brought in clinicians from specialist burns centres at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham and Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield – as well as Patient and Public Involvement groups – to guide their work.

    This works to significantly de-risk the technology in the eyes of future investors, and accelerate it towards commercialisation and clinical adoption.

    Their most recent Grow MedTech-funded project is allowing them to develop the mathematics and software components required for a portable prototype.


    Grow MedTech funding for industry-led collaborations

    Proof of Feasibility funding of up to £20,000 is currently available to support 6-month, industry-led medtech innovation projects.

    This funding is available to support early-stage feasibility and de-risking of technologies through:

    • Connection with academic capability in the Grow MedTech consortium to support the development of a new medical technology
    • Investigation or demonstration of the feasibility of a technology concept,
    • Early-stage prototype development and testing
    • Collaboration with patient and public groups to ensure that the medtech is designed to meet the demands of end-users from the outset.  

    The focus of the funding should be used to accelerate technologies towards commercialisation or clinical adoption and assisting in the attraction of follow on or external funding.

    Successful applicants will receive the support of our six Grow MedTech Technology Innovation Managers who will work with you to understand your technology development and innovation needs and connect you with the academic expertise at our university partners that you need to move your technology forward.

  8. Industry-Led Proof of Feasibility funding call launched


    COVID-19 UPDATE | 26 March 2020

    We have made the difficult decision to pause all active calls.

    We understand that this will be a huge disappointment to those of you that have already spent time developing projects and drafting applications. However, we recognise that many of you will be facing unknown delays as a result of lab closures and project partners will potentially, at least in the short term, be prioritising their focus elsewhere in response to the crisis.

    We need to have an understanding of what is required for us to complete existing projects – and what will be possible to deliver – before confirming the start of new projects.

    However, our Technology Innovation Managers are still on hand to work with you to understand your technology development and innovation needs and identify the right partners within our regions to help you build a successful collaboration for the future – click here to view their profiles and obtain their contact details.


    Our Industry-led Proof of Feasibility call is a new package of support available for small and medium-sized enterprises to develop new medical technologies by connecting to academic capability within our partner universities.

    We can help businesses to access the specialist expertise needed by teaming up with the relevant Grow MedTech researchers to de-risk and advance the development of new medical technologies in order to build confidence for further investment.

    Proof of Feasibility awards of up to £20,000 for a maximum duration of 6 months are available to support industry-led medtech innovation projects, which fit with the scope of the award, and where proof of market and the clinical need have already been established.

    Our Technology Innovation Managers can work with you to understand your technology development and innovation needs and identify the right capability within our partner universities to help you build a successful collaboration. We can help you connect with the academic expertise you need to move your technology forward.

    All projects must be based on:

    • Collaboration (industry with academia)
    • Co-investment (industry match*)
    • Industry needs
    • Global market opportunity
    • Clear clinical drivers, patient benefits
    • Expertise within a Grow MedTech University
    • Developing a commercially viable product

    *30% micro and small companies, 40% medium companies of the total project costs (in-kind and direct cash paid to the university partner).

    Grow MedTech supports the development of medical devices, including materials and software, but does not support the development and discovery of pharmaceuticals.

    All applications should have a strong emphasis on patient benefit with plans for patient and public involvement and strong clinical engagement is encouraged.

    This call does not directly fund industry/commercial organisations.

    How to apply

    Click here for full call guidance, scope and eligibility. Application forms can be provided by and should be co-developed with a Grow MedTech Technology Innovation Manager – click here to view their profiles and obtain their contact details.

  9. Growing our public and patient involvement

    Are you a patient, a family member or carer of a patient, or a person living with a long term condition? Are you interested in supporting the development of new medical technologies? Do you want to help steer innovation?

    If so we are offering a range of opportunities to get involved with Grow MedTech.

    Patient and public involvement (PPI) is an essential part of Grow MedTech’s community culture – something we value, advocate and practice.

    We want to see users involved at every stage of the innovation journey; identifying needs, providing high-level insight, making decisions on the projects we fund and helping to steer technology development projects.

    Opportunities to be involved in Grow MedTech:

    We are seeking PPI representatives to be involved in the following Grow MedTech activities:

    1. Opportunity Management Panels
    2. Strategic Advisory Board
    3. Technology Development projects and unmet need workshops

    Full information about each opportunity, role responsibilities, commitment requirements, essential and desirable criteria, how to apply and support available can be found in our opportunity brief document.

    To be considered for the different Grow MedTech patient and public involvement activities please complete an application form, selecting which aspects are of interest to you.

    If you need any more information or if you have any questions about getting involved with Grow MedTech, please contact us.

    Opportunities summary

    Grow MedTech’s Opportunity Management Panel

    Our Opportunity Management Panel is where we make a decision on what projects we fund. The panel is made up of university representatives, external specialists and end-users.

    Role Responsibilities:

    • To be a representative for the views and concerns of other patients and carers.
    • To review and score the lay summaries of project proposals and importantly the patient and public involvement plan for the projects.
    • To share your experiences and views about patient and public involvement.

    To be considered for our Opportunity Management Panel, please download and complete an application form.

    To be considered for our next Opportunity Management Panel on Thursday 26 March 2020, please email completed application forms to info@growmed.tech by Monday 2 March 2020 or post to Sara Liptrot, x101 Medical and Biological Engineering, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT.


    Grow MedTech’s Strategic Advisory Panel

    Our Strategic Advisory Board provides insight, advice, and guidance on the direction and future development of Grow MedTech. The Board is formed of stakeholders and leaders in medical technologies innovation, all of whom bring a breadth of perspectives that guide our programme.   

    Collectively, the Board is asked to:

    • Review and advise on Grow MedTech strategy; 
    • Advise on the meaningful engagement of Grow MedTech across and beyond our consortium; 
    • Advise on the strategic content and future directions of the Grow MedTech innovation project portfolio; 
    • Review progress, share intelligence and inform outcomes of the innovation project portfolio of Grow MedTech, and; 
    • Review and advise on the development and dissemination of good knowledge exchange practice.

    Role Responsibilities:

    • To be a representative for the views and concerns of other patients and carers.
    • To  share your experiences and views about patient and public involvement
    • To collectively as a board provide strategic advice and steer for the Grow MedTech programme

    How to apply:

    To be considered for our Strategic Advisory Panel, please download and complete an application form.

    To be a representative at our next Advisory Board meeting in early summer 2020 (date TBC) please apply by 30 April 2020.


    Technology Development projects and unmet need workshops

    Our ambition is to develop medical technologies that are aligned to end-user needs by involving patients and people with long-term conditions at every stage of their development.

    This ensures our project teams are accountable to those who will ultimately benefit from the technology they are developing, resulting in a better product.

    To support this, we want to build a diverse and inclusive group of PPI members that can be invited to be involved in PPI activities on individual technology development projects.

    We are also planning a series of unmet need workshops in collaboration with our partner programme Translate MedTech, which we would like to invite relevant members of the Grow MedTech PPI group to attend.

    Role Responsibilities:

    • To be a representative for the views and concerns of other patients and carers.
    • To provide insight and steer on unmet clinical needs and solutions
    • To  share your patient experiences

    How to apply:

    To apply to join our wider PPI group, please download and complete an application form.


    Completed application forms should be emailed to info@growmed.tech, or post to Sara Liptrot, x101 Medical and Biological Engineering, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT.

    Your details will then be stored on our secure database accessible by the Grow MedTech team only, and appropriate opportunities shared with you when they arise.

    If at any time, you do not want to receive any information from Grow MedTech about involvement opportunities you can ask for your details to be removed.

  10. Virtual Physiotherapist could improve stroke recovery

    A system developed by researchers at Leeds Beckett University aims to offer a ‘Virtual Physiotherapist’ service to patients recovering from stroke.

    Through Grow MedTech the research team has been able to make critical connections with healthcare professionals and patient groups, as well as benefiting from funding for user-testing and development work.

    Rehabilitation following a stroke can be extremely tough for patients, both mentally and physically. Physiotherapy sessions can help regain strength and movement – but regular exercise is key to success and this can be hard if patients struggle to attend clinics, or if they have to motivate themselves to maintain an exercise regime at home.

    Tackling these challenges could alleviate a significant burden from the NHS: around 1.2 million people in the UK are currently living with the after effects of stroke and this is likely to rise as stroke increases among middle-aged adults. Clinical and social care costs amount to around £1.7 billion per year.

    The Virtual Physiotherapist enables patients to carry out simple arm exercises at home and track their progress.

    Using the system is as simple as sitting in front of a computer and carrying out the prescribed task, such as lifting a glass to drink or moving an object across a table.

    Artificial intelligence in the computer’s software tracks the movements, building up a picture of progress over time.

    Direct access to clinicians and patients

    The sort of technology employed by the Virtual Physiotherapist is likely to become increasingly available within healthcare settings. Its success, however, is entirely dependent on whether or not patients and physicians are inclined to make use of it.

    Grow MedTech’s emphasis on involving end users in technology development from an early stage means the Leeds Beckett team have been able to make useful connections to guide development work.

    Through Translate MedTech, Grow MedTech’s predecessor organisation, lead research Professor Dorothy Monekosso was able to make valuable links with clinicians and assistive technology experts through a network of clinical professionals.

    “We had developed a prototype using funding from Royal Academy of Engineering and the University of Malaysia that showed how patients could use the system – but what we were lacking was input from clinicians about whether they saw a use for this sort of technology, and how they would use it,” says Professor Monekosso.

    “Through consultations facilitated by Grow MedTech, we were able to get some really positive feedback, but also lots of development ideas.”

    “Through the Grow MedTech and Translate MedTech events I’ve attended, I now have a wide group of clinical personnel in the region who are interested in helping us take this forward.

    Grow MedTech’s support goes much further than just access to funding. Without access to NHS colleagues, it doesn’t matter how good the system or the technology – it just won’t go anywhere!”

    Expressions of interest from clinical colleagues also helped the team secure Grow MedTech funding to further test the Virtual Physiotherapist.

    During this phase, Grow MedTech Technology Innovation Officer Cat Colquhoun introduced Professor Monekosso to colleagues in Assisted Living Leeds, which draws together Leeds City Council’s assistive technology services and information.

    “Through Assisted Living Leeds we were able to work directly with a group of stroke survivors and have them test out the system and give their opinion about how – and whether – they would use it,” says Professor Monekosso.

    Finding rewards that work

    After confirming the clinical use and interest from patients, the team can explore in more depth what incentives will really encourage users to maintain regular use of the Virtual Physiotherapist.

    A Proof of Market grant from Grow MedTech is enabling more work to be done with Assisted Living Leeds, working with patient groups to test different prototypes.

    “We need to make sure we understand our patient’s motivation and how we can harness it,” says Professor Monekosso. “For example, when people play computer games, they might get coins or badges if they play regularly. Is that the sort of reward that would motivate our patients? That’s what we hope to find out in this next phase of research.”