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£45 million ’Engine for Healthcare Innovation’ to Boost UK Medical Engineering


The Wellcome Trust and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) today announced the launch of a joint £45 million initiative to boost innovation in medical engineering within the UK.

The initiative will provide funding for a number of multidisciplinary centres of excellence within the UK, bringing together experts in the fields of the physical and engineering sciences with those in the clinical and life sciences with the aim of developing innovative solutions for healthcare.

Major advances in healthcare or life sciences research are frequently underpinned by the development of new technology, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), reconstructive surgery and non-invasive diagnostic tests. The discovery and development of such innovations requires a multi- or inter-disciplinary approach. However, increasing specialisation within disciplines needs to be matched by exciting and innovative research across these interfaces.

The Medical Engineering initiative will provide funding to enable academic institutions to engage in applied research for healthcare. It will also improve the integration of expertise in the public and private sectors so that innovations arising in academia are harnessed effectively by the healthcare industry and aided through the process of regulation, commercialisation and distribution for patient benefit.

Over the past 12 months, both the Wellcome Trust and the EPSRC have announced a number of new medical devices developed with their funding. These include the i-Snake for use in keyhole surgery, funded by the Wellcome Trust, and biological cements to repair “burst fractures” of the spine, funded by EPSRC. Now, with £30 million from the Wellcome Trust and £15 million from EPSRC, the two organisations hope to stimulate further discovery and boost the development of such innovations.

Professor David Delpy, Chief Executive of EPSRC, says: “The UK has significant strengths in the areas of engineering, physical, clinical and life sciences. This partnership with the Wellcome Trust opens up exciting new possibilities in exploratory research in healthcare that will cross these disciplines. It offers tremendous potential for significant advances to address currently unmet clinical needs.”

“Major advances in medical diagnosis and treatment, such as CT scanning, magnetic resonance scanning and fibre-optic surgical techniques have come from interdisciplinary collaborations between engineering, physical and medical sciences,” says Dr Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust. “This scheme will provide major new funding for interdisciplinary collaborations to develop new technologies that will advance healthcare in the future.”

The initiative has been welcomed by Ian Pearson MP, Minister of State for Science and Innovation.

“Innovation will be a necessity if we are to have a successful economy and society in the future,” says Mr Pearson. “In our White Paper ’Innovation Nation’ launched recently we set out the ambition to help the UK be the best place for innovative businesses, public services and third sector organisations to flourish. Government can foster innovation, but only people can create an Innovation Nation. We want to establish creative alliances such as the Medical Engineering initiative to support innovation.”

Applications for funding from academic institutions across the UK are now open and the deadline for preliminary applications is 30 May 2008.

* Wellcome Trust website
More information about the call and details of how to apply online

Notes for Editors

The Wellcome Trust is the largest charity in the UK. It funds innovative biomedical research, in the UK and internationally, spending around £650 million each year to support the brightest scientists with the best ideas. The Wellcome Trust supports public debate about biomedical research and its impact on health and wellbeing.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK’s main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. The EPSRC invests around £740 million a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change. The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone’s health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC also actively promotes public awareness of science and engineering. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK.


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