£3.7m moneypot for photonics technologies


Government announces funding scheme to encourage business-led partnerships

The Government has announced a £3.7m cashpot aimed at encouraging the formation of new business-led partnerships that will discover innovative ways of applying photonics technologies to solve challenges in the healthcare sector.

David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, announced the investment today. It will be administered by the Technology Strategy Board, the UK’s innovation agency, and will run as a two-part process - the first involving a single-stage competition for feasibility studies, including at least one small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) and lasting between 6 and 12 months. A total of £1.5m will be allocated to this strand, with individual project awards of up around £100,000.

The second part is a two-stage competition for collaborative R&D projects, again including at least one SME. Projects will last between 12 and 24 months and £2.2m has been allocated, with individual project awards of up to £750,000 available.

Iain Gray, chief executive of the Technology Strategy board, said the initiative would bring together academia, industry and health providers to validate and highlight new applications of photonics in healthcare. He added: “This is an important announcement for the UK bio-photonics industry, particularly because of the collaborative nature of the competition, which will stimulate innovation and new cross-sector, industry-led collaborations across all tiers of the supply chain in photonics for health.

“The involvement of clinical and industrial end-users in both the feasibility studies and R&D stages of the competition will help ensure not just that the NHS and clinicians fully understand the potential of next generation photonic technologies, but that they can bring their expertise to bear in the development of a range of new tools for less invasive diagnosis and surgery.”

The scope for the competition includes:

  • Therapy using light, for example, phototherapy for dermatological conditions, photodynamic therapy etc
  • Combining treatment with diagnostics – theranostics, to locate and address problems
  • Laser procedures in ophthalmology, for example, correction for near and far-sightedness in vision, photorefractive keratectomy and general surgery such as endovascular surgery and gastro-intestinal surgery
  • Oncology (excluding in-vivo imaging)
  • Laser for the manufacture of medical devices, for example stents, catheters and structuring of prosthesis
  • Genomic research and drug discovery
  • Microbiology (viral and bacterial analysis)
  • Sterilisation using light sources
  • Novel biomedical materials that change properties after light treatment
  • In-vitro diagnostics, for example, using optical microscopy and spectroscopy for cell-based studies to identify and treat diseases such as cancer and neurodegenerative diseases
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