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UK space technologies to boost NHS COVID-19 response

UK Space Agency announces new funding drive for innovative space-enabled technology and services to support the NHS during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The UK Space Agency has launched a new drive to fund space-enabled technology and services that can strengthen the NHS response to COVID-19.

An initial £2.6 million is being made available to fund a number of projects, that will address at least one of the following: 

  • Logistics within the health delivery system, e.g. with drone deliveries 
  • Managing infectious disease outbreaks 
  • Population health and wellbeing 
  • Recovering health system function and handling backlogs after the crisis 
  • Preparedness for future epidemics 

The joint initiative with the European Space Agency (ESA) in support of NHS England will build upon the existing work of the UK space industry in developing hi-tech healthcare solutions. 

“Even in normal times, satellites and space technology offer solutions to our needs in connectivity and inclusion, in resilience and logistics, and to support healthcare provision in even the most extreme situations” commented Nick Appleyard, Head of Downstream Business Applications at ESA’s European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications in Oxfordshire.  

Last year the UK Space Agency provided £5 million for new health technologies inspired by working in space to support NHS England. These included providing real-time diagnosis of bowel cancer, developing more compact 3D X-ray machines and a mobile app that provided exercise plans free from air pollution for those with medical conditions such as asthma.  

This latest funding drive aims to ensure that the latest innovations will be on the “frontline” of tackling the unique provokes the COVID-19 pandemic has created, according to Science Minister Amanda Solloway, and it is hoped that the new technology and software will help tackle the pandemic as well as other challenges facing the NHS, such as speeding up cancer diagnoses and satellite communications connecting GPs to patients virtually.  

The UK Government has called on the technology industry and academic institutions to back the national effort to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, and has sought innovative solutions in equipment supply and technological solutions such as rapid sanitising technology for ambulances, Innovate UK’s £20 million grant scheme for business-led innovation, and efforts to minimise social isolation for those most at-risk.  

Head to the ESA Business Applications website for details on how to apply.


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