UK Gov’t unveils £86m package to support SMEs


Health minister Lord O’Shaughnessy has unveiled a new package of support worth up to £86 million to help innovative UK businesses develop medical breakthroughs that are then used across the NHS.

The funding marks the first step in taking forward recommendations made in the Accelerated Access Review (AAR), which aim to accelerate patient access to the latest innovations.

The cash stream is being provided jointly by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Department of Health, with around £56 million coming from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and £30 million from existing DH budgets.

It is hoped that it will enable those Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) successful in their bids for funding to develop and test new technologies in the NHS, as well as speed up the time it takes to get new technologies from the lab into the real-world setting.

The funding is being split across four key areas, with: £39 million available to Academic Health Science Networks (ASHNs), to secure real benefits according to local need; £35 million for Digital Health Technology Catalyst for innovators, to match fund the development of digital technologies for use by patients and the NHS; up to £6 million to support SMEs in gathering evidence they need through real-world testing; and a £6 million Pathway Transformation Fund, to help NHS organisations integrate new technologies into everyday practice.

“The Government’s ambition is that NHS patients get world-leading, life-changing treatments as fast as possible,” said Lord O’Shaughnessy. “That can’t happen unless we support medical innovation and tear down the barriers – like speed to market and access to funding – that can get in the way, especially for SMEs.”

The Ethical Medicines Industry Group has welcomed the move. “We will continue to work with the Government to find ways to make significant improvements in patients’ access to medicines,” said chairman Leslie Galloway.

Dr Richard Torbett, executive director of Commercial Policy at the ABPI, noted that the new investment for AHSNs is “an important first step in pulling industry and the health service together to realise the Review’s ambition.

“Turning the rest of the AAR’s recommendations into reality now relies on a full, positive Government response to the Review – and an effective Life Sciences Industrial Strategy.”

The AAR, which was developed in partnership with the Wellcome Trust, made a total of 18 recommendations that could propel a step change in access and uptake of innovation in the country. The government’s response to these is expected later this year.


Selina McKee


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