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Oxford secures £17.5 million to lead national AI healthcare programmes

Oxford secures £17.5 million to lead national AI healthcare programmes
Oxford secures £17.5 million to lead national AI healthcare programmes. Image credit: Shutterstock

Innovate UK and industry are to invest more than £17.5 million in the University of Oxford to develop artificial intelligence (AI) healthcare applications to benefit patients.

Funding will be provided to the University of Oxford through the Government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund by as part of a £50 million investment to establish a network of digital pathology, imaging and AI centres, to drive innovation in the use of AI for improved diagnosis and delivery of precision treatments.

Oxford is to be home to one of the five new technology centres across the country, and is also a collaborator in two of the other centres, with local activities integrated within the Big Data Institute.

The University of Oxford led centre is the National Consortium of Intelligent Medical Imaging (NCIMI), in which UK Research and Innovation is investing £10 million. NCIMI will also benefit from a further £5 million of funding provided from its commercial partners. The consortium includes 15 NHS hospitals, industry (including GE Healthcare and Alliance Medical), charities, and patient support groups to develop new artificial intelligence tools to help speed up diagnosis of cancer, heart disease, genetic disorders and other conditions.

Professor Sir Michael Brady, Executive Chairman of NCIMI and Founder of Perspectum Diagnostics, Director of Mirada Medical and Chairman of Optellum commented: ‘All of the Oxford-based SMEs are excited to be part of the consortium working alongside industry and other partners to support the development and use of AI in healthcare. We hope that these developments will benefit patient treatment and patient pathways in the NHS.’

Professor Gavin Screaton, Head of the University of Oxford’s Medical Sciences Division said: ‘We are delighted that Innovate UK has chosen to support our National Consortium and activity in other centres. We believe that combining the heath data, ethics, clinical and AI expertise within the University with a national NHS network and a range of industry partners has real potential to introduce new solutions which will improve patient care.’

The other successful centres funded through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund are based in Leeds, Coventry, Glasgow and London. Along with Oxford they will form a network of Centres using AI to develop more intelligent analysis of medical imaging and find new ways to speed up diagnosis of diseases to improve outcomes for patients. In addition to leading one of the five successful consortia, Oxford is a partner on the digital pathology focused centres led by University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust and University of Leeds ).

‘Partnership is critical to successful development and deployment of Artificial Intelligence technology,’ said Todd McNitt, GM of Digital Solutions at GE Healthcare. ‘We are proud to work alongside leading academic institutions like Oxford University as well as local SMEs, NHS hospitals and other industry partners to bring the promise of AI-enabled precision health to patients across the UK and around the world.’

The centres will be funded through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, the government’s flagship investment programme that focuses on addressing the opportunities and challenges of the future, which is managed by UK Research and Innovation. The centres will be spearheaded by some of the UK’s leading medical companies including GE Healthcare, Siemens, Philips, Leica, Canon and Roche Diagnostics. The investment marks a significant step in delivering on a major commitment in the Life Sciences Sector Deal (Dec 2017), which built on Oxford Regius Professor of Medicine Sir John Bell’s Life Sciences Industrial Strategy (Aug 2017).

Business Secretary Greg Clark said: ‘AI has the potential to revolutionise healthcare and improve lives for the better. That’s why our modern Industrial Strategy puts pioneering technologies at the heart of our plans to build a Britain fit for the future.

‘The innovation at these new centres will help diagnose disease earlier to give people more options when it comes to their treatment, and make reporting more efficient, freeing up time for our much-admired NHS staff time to spend on direct patient care.’

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