We’re inviting applications for funding for a digital health hub, focused on promoting the transfer and sharing of knowledge and skills, enabling new partnerships to form, and creating a space for new research ideas and digital technologies to be developed.
We have been working with Innovate UK to identify the digital health skills requirements for academics and business. This is a pilot opportunity for proposals to create a digital health hub to address these requirements.
Funding is available to support hubs for up to three years in this first phase. There will be an evaluation stage halfway through the programme to review options for progressing successful hubs to a second phase.
We plan to continue working with Innovate UK to build on this initiative which could include links to future Innovate UK funding opportunities.
We’re looking to provide funding for a knowledge and skills digital health hub, focused on:
- increasing skills and capacity in the development of digital health and care solutions across academic disciplines, healthcare and industry
- allowing co-creation of solutions with users across healthcare, such as patients, carers and clinicians
- enabling the accelerated translation of digital technologies into the healthcare space and rapid commercialisation of emerging digital technologies
- building new partnerships between industry, healthcare, social care, users of digital technologies and academia
- increasing the sharing of knowledge between industry, healthcare and academia
- providing a mechanism for fostering leadership in digital health and care.
We are committed to investing in a diverse and connected portfolio of projects and welcome applications that support regional and national research and innovation agendas.
We expect any EPSRC-UKRI funding to leverage appropriate expertise and co-investment from industrial partners as well as other project partners.
Industrial engagement will be an important component of the hub. It will:
- allow companies to co-create research programmes and mitigate some of the risk of undertaking fundamental and early-stage research that could give a company an advantage in the future
- enable access to skilled academics and health professionals to enable faster development of better digital tools for health.
We want to make sure that the research we support through our healthcare technologies theme has the greatest chance of achieving a positive impact in human health. Early end user engagement is particularly important to the successful design of research which will have long term impact.
In your proposal, you should demonstrate that your application is being co-created with relevant stakeholders. This may include:
- service users
- policy makers
- practitioners, including allied healthcare workers.
We expect hubs to incorporate a range of different expertise that will enable any digital technologies developed to consider issues around responsible, trustworthy and equitable digital technologies.
What we expect from a hub
The hub should create an entrepreneurial environment in which researchers, health and care professionals and businesses can:
- build partnerships
- share knowledge and ideas to scope applications, business models and routes to market for new digital health technologies.
Enable skills and knowledge sharing
The hub will need to provide a mechanism for building and sharing knowledge and skills between businesses (small and medium-sized enterprises and larger) across academic disciplines, and with the health and care system. This could be through:
- vocational training
- continuing professional development courses
The types of skills and knowledge we have identified through community consultation as being important are:
- understanding of the whole regulatory pathway
- understanding the medical and care environment and working with healthcare professionals
- identifying user needs and working with users
- data security, ethics and data privacy
- data collection, access and integration
- industrial relationships
- understanding of NHS infrastructure and systems
- evidence of efficacy and procurement
- user design
- technical software development and data science skills.
Hubs should consider collaborations with other training programmes and centres available in the UK which promote knowledge and skills sharing in digital health and provide a mechanism to join up with these.
A list of other centres of excellence and training courses can be found in the digital health skills survey report in the ‘additional information’ section.
Digital health innovation strategy
You will need to provide a clear strategy for technology-based, market-led innovation in digital health where there is clear evidence of a strong business and user need, across primary care, prevention and self-management.
For tips on successful innovation, take a look at our impact and translation toolkit. It provides an overview of some of the barriers you may face when applying your research to solve challenges in human health and wellbeing.
Hubs are expected to establish and exploit strong connections with patients and the public to ensure that research and solutions are:
- easier for the public, and health and care professionals to use
- developed with an understanding of unmet needs and health inequalities
- fit for an inclusive, prosperous and sustainable society.
Early stage research focus
There should be a focus on pre-competitive research. Research at the hub should be mainly novel research in information and communications technology (ICT), mathematical sciences and engineering to develop innovative digital technologies for health.
Hubs can include costs for funding pilot research studies. These should be interdisciplinary projects formed from the collaborations made at the digital health hub.
The pilot studies will enable collaborations formed through the digital health hub to work together and create new digital technologies for health and care.
Addressing unmet health needs
There must be a focus on the research and development of digital health solutions that address unmet health needs. This may include communicable or chronic diseases, or promoting wellness through prevention to benefit public health.
Your application should be in line with one of the grand challenges of our healthcare technologies theme, which are:
- ‘Developing New Therapies’ which focuses on the need to produce safer, more targeted treatments fit for the demands of the decades up to 2050 and beyond
- ‘Expanding the Frontiers of Physical Intervention’, providing the potential to enhance established techniques and develop pioneering new approaches to interventions, delivering high precision, minimal invasiveness and maximum impact
- ‘Transforming Health and Care Beyond the Hospital’, meeting the need for novel technologies that enable timely interventions beyond hospital settings and helping people to manage their own physical and mental health
- ‘Optimising Disease Prediction, Diagnosis and Intervention’, addressing both physical and mental health with techniques that optimise patient-specific illness prediction, accurate diagnosis and effective intervention.
There is up to £8 million available through this funding opportunity to support multiple projects expected to last up to three years in duration. Your hub’s full economic cost can be up to £4 million. EPSRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.
We anticipate that proposals for hubs may be small or large scale depending on the need and costs involved.
Equipment over £10,000 in value inclusive of value added tax (VAT) is not available through this opportunity. Smaller items of equipment with individual costs under £10,000 should be listed in the ‘directly incurred, other costs’ heading in the Je-S application form.
EPSRC guidance for equipment funding.
EPSRC is fully committed to developing and promoting responsible innovation. Research has the ability to not only produce understanding, knowledge and value, but also:
- unintended consequences
- ethical dilemmas
- unexpected social transformations.
We recognise that we have a duty of care to promote approaches to responsible innovation that will initiate ongoing reflection about the potential ethical and societal implications of the research that we sponsor. We encourage our research community to do likewise.
You are expected to work within the EPSRC framework for responsible innovation given on the EPSRC website.
Read the EPSRC framework for responsible innovation.
If you are planning to include international collaborators on your proposal, you should use the Trusted Research guidance.
This provides information and advice on how to get the most out of international collaboration whilst protecting intellectual property, sensitive research and personal information.
Read the Trusted Research guidance for more information about secure international research collaboration.