1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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 2019 (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.

  5. 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.”

  6. Imaging and biosensing technologies for objective decision-making

    As the new era of personalised medicine gets underway, doctors are requiring increasingly sophisticated and intelligent decision-making and monitoring tools. These diagnostic tools will help them make treatment decisions that are relevant to highly specific subsets of patients, or even personalised to an individual.

    From wearable monitoring devices, to smart diagnostics that use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to learn and adapt, these new technologies are becoming essential to help doctors spot conditions early and deliver the right treatment, at the right time.

    The potential benefits to patient wellbeing, as well as the savings in NHS resources, are significant.

    At Grow MedTech, we support researchers to evidence how their technology developments will provide such savings.

    Our Proof of Market and Proof of Feasibility funds can help researchers move projects through the early development stages, where it is often hard to find funding, but where being able to demonstrate aspects such as market need and health economics is crucial for moving to the next Technology Readiness Level.

    Solving the microwave challenge

    The University of York has particularly impressive capabilities in the field of imaging, biosensing and diagnostics technology, with cutting-edge research being carried out in a number of departments and access to facilities such as its Centre for Hyperpolarisation in Magnetic Resonance (CHyM) and the Bioscience Technology Facility.

    These facilities put the University in a great position to take advantage of our support.

    One area in which York is excelling is in the use of microwave technology in diagnostics – specifically to measure the depth and severity of burns.

    A team led by Professor Roddy Vann, in the York Plasma Institute, is currently working on a prototype device that can provide a 3D image of temperatures up to 2cm below the skin by measuring microwaves naturally emitted by the body, the strength of which depends on the temperature of the tissue.

    This is expected to 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.

    This device is innovative in combining 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.

    We are helping to de-risk the project by demonstrating the feasibility of the prototype and supporting the team to develop the mathematics and software that will convert the complex signals that are emitted from the burn into a usable image that can be used by healthcare professionals to judge its severity

    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.

    We’ve also been fortunate to bring 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 this research.

    Improving c-section infection diagnosis

    Measuring the body’s heat signals is a promising area for diagnostics, and one in which Sheffield Hallam researchers are also focusing their attention with our support.

    This time, infra-red thermal imaging cameras are being employed to help with decision-making, by predicting the likelihood of surgical site infection in women after Caesarean section.

    Around 200,000 women undergo caesarean sections each year. Since it is hard to tell, by looking at a wound, whether or not it will become infected, women are routinely prescribed prophylactic antibiotics.

    Identifying infections early and treating them appropriately will reduce patient risk, and cut down the number of antibiotics prescribed.

    In the University’s Centre for Health and Social Care Research, Professor Charmaine Childs’ team is using Grow MedTech funds to investigate the potential market for the device before making a bid for significant national funding to refine the design and software ahead of a clinical trial.

    In this way, our support is helping to bridge the gap between early stage research and more advanced technology development.

    Objective disease diagnosis

    One area in which diagnosis is particularly difficult is in diseases marked by cognitive decline, such as Alzheimer’s. 

    There are a number of challenges, including finding reliable biochemistry tests that can accurately measure changes, and obtaining the right samples from a particularly vulnerable group of patients.

    At Leeds Beckett, we funded a Proof of Market project, led by Dr Nat Milton, to progress a non-invasive test based on saliva samples. Working with the University of Huddersfield and the University of Roehampton, Dr Milton’s team has identified biochemical markers called kisspeptins that are found in saliva and can be linked to Alzheimer’s.

    We worked with Dr Milton to support a detailed exploration of the potential market for this test, along with an early stage cost benefit analysis. The results were extremely positive, showing a clear market opportunity for a test of this type.

    The next step for the team will be able to finalise its development and produce a prototype device. It’s clear that there’s an urgent need to be able to diagnose Alzheimer’s more accurately and at an earlier stage and so it’s particularly exciting to see this technology progress towards the clinic.

  7. Growing MedTech Translation 2019: conference highlights

    Over 130 delegates from across the medtech sector joined us on Friday 6 December 2019 to learn more about the current innovation landscape in the Leeds and Sheffield City Regions at Growing MedTech Translation 2019.

    The packed agenda included three speakers from actively supported Grow MedTech projects, student pitches from recipients of Translate MedTech Summer Student Project Funding, and medtech pitches from six hopeful project teams who sought to impress a panel of independent innovation specialist ‘dragons’ for the chance to win £10,000 in innovation funding support.

    Other key speakers included Prof John Fisher, who highlighted the need for medtech innovators to recognise that successful new innovative medical products that come to market over the next decade will be driven by technology convergence, and by patient and population needs.

    Prof John Fisher giving his opening talk at Growing MedTech Translation 2019
    Prof John Fisher giving his opening talk at Growing MedTech Translation 2019

    Our keynote talk was given by Dr Rosie McEachan, director of Born in Bradford who spoke on the importance of end-user insights in developing impactful solutions to unmet healthcare needs.

    Dr Rosie McEachan, director of Born in Bradford, delivering her keynote speech at Growing MedTech Translation 2019
    Dr Rosie McEachan, director of Born in Bradford, delivering her keynote speech

    Presentations throughout the day were balanced by a long break for lunch and networking.

    Delegate networking taking place between presentations at Growing MedTech Translation 2019.
    Networking between presentations

    During this break, delegates had the opportunity to network with representatives from nine organisations at their exhibition stands and discuss regional opportunities that may be of interest.

    Each student who gave a presentation about their Translate MedTech summer project also had the opportunity to present research posters to delegates to facilitate networking.

    Dr Will Bolton was awarded a £50 Amazon voucher after delegates voted that he presented the best pitch and poster of the day about his Translate MedTech Summer Student Project on developing circular frame fixators for leg fracture patients in developing countries.  

    Networking taking place around the Translate MedTech student project posters
    Delegate networking around the Translate MedTech student project posters

    Based on their use of Sli.do, a clear highlight of the conference for the entrepreneurially-minded was the Pump Prime Funding Competition pitches.

    Prof Reza Saatchi and Prof Heather Elphick presenting their medtech pitch to our panel of 'dragons' during the Pump Prime Funding Competition at Growing MedTech Translation 2019
    Prof Reza Saatchi and Prof Heather Elphick presenting their medtech pitch to our panel of ‘dragons’ during the Pump Prime Funding Competition.

    The audience submitted more than 80 questions to quiz the six hopeful contestants, with topics ranging from technology specifics, to questions around IP and business scalability.

    Following a lengthy discussion between the dragons and an audience vote, Prof Reza Saatchi and Heather Elphick were announced as winners of the Pump Prime Funding Competition, and the £10,000 innovation funding prize.

    A picture of Prof Reza Saatchi accepting the £10,000 prize for winning the Grow MedTech Pump Prime Funding Competition at Growing MedTech Translation 2019
    Prof Reza Saatchi being awarded his £10,000 prize for winning the Pump Prime Funding Competition

    Stay up to date with future Grow MedTech and Translate MedTech events by signing up for our mailing list.

  8. Breaking down barriers in medtech

    Digital technologies are breaking down the walls of the medtech industry, enabling companies – and academics – that are new to medtech to apply their knowledge within the sector.

    This is true at all levels, from big players such as Apple (who recently appointed a senior cardiologist) and Google (who recently bought Fitbit) to the smaller companies and individual academics who are using their know-how to develop digital health technologies.

    Dr Steven Fenton from the University of Huddersfield, for example, is an electronic engineer with a research interest in audio quality in music production.

    Grow MedTech is supporting his project to create a 3D ‘audio map’ to help blind and visually impaired people navigate their surroundings.

    He is adapting software he developed for another purpose to translate a visual image into a sound picture and identify potential obstacles in the user’s path.

    Following the same pathway

    Although digital health products may seem very different to traditional medtech, the same criteria need to be applied to their commercialisation.

    Dr Fenton has received our earliest stage funding, to help him establish clinical need and market opportunity for the software and identify the best direction to take.

    The same questions need to be asked of this project as for any other – for example: does this technology meet a clinical need, is there a commercial opportunity for it, what competitors are already out there?

    But that’s not to say there aren’t new challenges and questions being raised by digital healthcare technologies, and these focus mainly on trust, transparency and data management.

    Will patients trust decisions made by software, rather than people? How clear can we be about how decisions or results are arrived at, when this is done by an algorithm? How will the data gathered be used, stored and managed – and who owns that data?

    The regulatory bodies are themselves still battling with many of these questions, though some changes are already in the pipeline.

    New EU regulations for medical devices (MDR) and in vitro diagnostic medical devices (IVDR) due to be introduced place more stringent requirements on the majority of digital technologies – essentially any that affect diagnostic or therapeutic decisions.

    This will result in a more onerous regulatory process which has caused some companies to revise their strategies.

    The challenge of AI in Health Tech

    The EU’s Ethical guidelines for trustworthy Artificial Intelligence (AI)’ set out factors which need to be continuously evaluated and addressed throughout the AI systems lifecycle and this will impact on all health technologies that use AI or machine learning.

    A key difference in a medical device that’s built on machine learning is that it’s not set in stone once developed.

    Unlike a more traditional device, an algorithm is intended to be dynamic and evolve over time which means it can keep improving and changing as it learns more from more data.

    We’re supporting a project at the University of Bradford using machine learning to assess the quality of donated organs for transplant.

    Assessing organ quality is complex, requiring multiple factors to be taken into account and some subjectivity can’t be avoided.

    As such, individual surgeons, teams and hospitals can come up with different assessments for the same organ. The surgeon conducting the transplant has to make the final call – a very difficult decision, particularly with organs of marginal quality.

    Professor Hassan Ugail is developing an algorithm that can score organs more objectively, by combining multiple data sets – including lab test results and patient survival rates – with a colour spectrum analysis that has been shown to relate to quality.

    The aim is to combine the expertise of multiple professionals into one assessment tool that grades the organ to give the transplant surgeon more confidence of success, so that no organ is unnecessarily rejected.

    The regulation for technologies such as this may still be uncertain, but at Grow MedTech we don’t let this block development in any way.

    Instead, we carry out horizon scanning, identifying the trends and ensuring projects put in place the elements they are likely to need for likely future regulation, to mitigate any risks.

    This usually means showing project teams have considered those key issues of trust, ethics, transparency and data management. These can be addressed by ensuring end user or patient involvement, or by bringing in specialist expertise.

    Combining expertise

    A project we’re supporting at Sheffield Hallam University, involves Dr Lynne Barker, who is working with a software development house with no previous experience of medtech.

    We’ve brought in a regulation specialist to work with the company, to ensure they fully audit and evidence the necessary steps during development to meet regulatory requirements.

    The technology is based on a test – in the form of a cooking exercise – to assess cognitive function in people with traumatic brain injury, stroke or mild cognitive impairment (the precursor to dementia).

    In trials, the test was able to distinguish between the three conditions. Patients with mild cognitive impairment didn’t complete the ‘meal’ on time, those with stroke usually forgot an ingredient whereas those with traumatic brain injury tended to undercook the food.

    The software company is now developing this into an app that can go into clinical trials.

    At Grow MedTech, we’re supporting more and more digital healthcare technologies or projects that combine digital with other technologies.

    These are often exciting projects to work with, as the speed of development can be much faster than traditional medtech. But however rapid the development itself is, there’s no substitute for properly assessing the potential for commercialising the technology.

    And this is where our help and support, for digital as for other technologies, can really make the difference.

  9. Dragons’ Den success for sleep apnoea experts from Sheffield Hallam University and Sheffield Children’s Hospital

    A team of academics and clinicians from Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) and Sheffield Children’s Hospital (SCH) triumphed in a Dragons’ Den-style pitch competition to win £10,000 of medical technology funding.

    The money will be used to advance the development of a device that utilises innovative method to monitor central sleep apnoea in young children and infants.


    Led by medical engineer Professor Reza Saatchi, the project team comprised of Professor Heather Elphick, Dr Ruth Kingshott and Dr Nicki Barker from SCH, alongside Dr Ruth Evans and Anthony Jones from SHU. 

    The team impressed Grow MedTech’s panel of independent dragons with their plans for technology that can help clinicians to monitor the respiratory condition in children and infants.

    Central sleep apnoea, which affects around 1% of all infants, is a type of breathing disorder that occurs during sleep and causes individuals to pause their breathing. These incidents can be serious enough to require hospital admission.

    Reza Saatchi, Professor of Electronics at SHU, said: “We are delighted to have won the prestigious Grow MedTech Pump Prime competition. There is currently a clinical need for a reliable and cost-effective device that allows home monitoring of infants and children with central sleep apnoea, and it is testament to the strength of our 15-year research and innovation partnership with Sheffield Children’s Hospital that we have succeeded in winning this highly competitive research prize which allows us to meet this important medical need.”

    The competition was part of Growing MedTech Translation 2019, a Leeds-based event hosted by Grow MedTech. The event brought together more than 100 delegates from the medtech sector to hear talks from innovators and to network.

    Alongside the dragons – made up of medtech experts and patient representatives – delegates at the conference were able to vote for their favourite research innovation, for which the SHU/SCH team also came out on top.

    The £10,000 Pump Prime funding and innovation support is to be used to de-risk and advance the development of the technology towards commercialisation and being used by patients. There are currently needs for a device that can be used to achieve accurate, reliable, easy to use, child-friendly and cost-effective home monitoring of central sleep apnoea.

    The SHU/SCH project focuses on the paediatric population, but the technology is equally applicable to adults and can reduce NHS costs by monitoring patients at home to allow more timely detection and treatment.

  10. We are hiring: Administrative Assistant

    This is an opportunity for an enthusiastic, efficient, creative and flexible administrative assistant to join the Medical Technologies Innovation team.

    The University of Leeds has significant capabilities that support the development of new medical technologies and these are united under a single gateway – Medical Technologies at the University of Leeds.

    Medical Technologies encompasses several major research and innovation programmes and projects: the Medical Technologies Innovation and Knowledge Centre, Translate MedTech and Grow MedTech hosted by the Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering at Leeds.  

    Grow MedTech, funded through Research England’s Connecting Capability fund, is a collaborative partnership between 6 Yorkshire universities (LeedsBradfordYorkHuddersfieldSheffield Hallam and Leeds Beckett) which aims to develop and share best practice in the translation and commercialisation of medical technologies.

    It brings together the best minds in engineering, biological development, design and manufacturing together with industry to drive medical technology products into everyday use to improve the quality of life for people across the world.

    You will be an experienced administrator with experience of arranging and servicing meetings and events, taking minutes, diary management, raising purchase orders and arranging travel. You will have a flexible, proactive approach and excellent communication skills.


    To explore the post further or for any queries you may have, please contact: 

    Dr Josephine Dixon-Hardy, Director of Medical Technologies Innovation

    Tel: +44 (0) 113 343 0920 or email: J.E.Dixon-Hardy@leeds.ac.uk