Strategic partnerships

A strategic aim of the Healthcare Technologies theme is to accelerate translation of funded research through to products and practices. One of the ways in which this is done is through working in partnership with other key stakeholders.

Existing partnerships

The Healthcare Technologies theme currently has two existing strategic partnerships with the Wellcome Trust and with Cancer Research UK (CRUK).

Wellcome Trust

In September 2012, the Wellcome Trust and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) launched a one-off £30 million initiative to support innovative engineering solutions to intractable problems in medicine or public health.

Details of the funded projects can be found below.

Image-guided intrauterine minimally invasive fetal diagnosis and therapy, University College London

Researchers at University College London (UCL) were awarded funding for up to seven years, to develop better tools and imaging techniques that will improve the success of surgery and other therapies on unborn babies in collaboration with KU Leuven, Great Ormond Street Hospital and University College London Hospital.

Computer-guided imaging systems for prenatal screening and comprehensive diagnosis of fetal abnormalities, King's College London

Ultrasound, which passes sound waves into the body to create pictures from their reflections, is commonly used to check that babies in the womb are healthy. Although every pregnant mother in the country has a scan at around 20 weeks, many of the babies who have problems are not picked up on these ultrasound scans.

Controlling Abnormal Network Dynamics with Optogenetics (CANDO), Newcastle University

Within the brain nerve cells connect together to generate rhythmic activity visible as brain waves on an EEG. In many neurological diseases this network is disrupted, producing abnormal patterns of activity. In epilepsy, abnormal activity can be localised to a small 'focus', but this can spread across the whole brain as a seizure.In 2010, EPSRC and the Wellcome Trust, in partnership, provided funding for five years for four new Centres of Excellence in Medical Engineering in the UK (PDF 877KB). The intent was for each centre to provide an environment for mathematics, physical science, engineering and medical research to come together, to encourage exploratory research and the translation of that research into specific product developments of benefit to healthcare.

Cancer Research UK (CRUK)

EPSRC / CRUK Cancer Imaging centres

In 2013, EPSRC and CRUK, in partnership, provided funding for £35 million over five years for four separate Cancer Imaging Centres across the country, helping to cement the UK's position as a world leader in cancer imaging research. The new initiative built on the £50 million initial investment in October 2008. This funding brings together scientists, engineers and clinicians to develop new imaging techniques and applications which will help clinicians learn more about how tumours feed and grow, how cancer cells signal to one another, tumour blood supply, the environment surrounding tumours and molecular and genetic signatures.

The cancer imaging centres will serve as focal points of world-class research using a variety of techniques, such as optical microscopy, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and PET (Positron Emission Tomography).

The four centres that received funding are: University of Oxford, The Institute of Cancer Research, London Cancer Imaging Centre, a joint imaging centre between King's College London and University College London and a new collaboration between the University of Cambridge and University of Manchester.

Oxford University

The Cancer Imaging Centre Oxford aims to integrate basic research in chemistry, physics and cancer biology with imaging science to guide therapeutic choices for cancer patients.

Institute of Cancer Research

The Cancer Imaging Centre at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) is part of the largest comprehensive Cancer Centre in Europe and will focus on enabling 'personalised' medicine for each individual patient. New imaging techniques, such as identifying an imaging 'fingerprint' of aggressive disease, will help determine which tumours have the greatest risk of progression.

The Cancer Imaging Centre (CCIC) at King's College London and University College London

The Cancer Imaging Centre (CCIC) at King's College London and University College London combine cutting-edge technology development at King's College London with the genomics expertise and clinical trials as well as access to the first clinical simultaneous PET/MRI facility in the UK. The facility focuses on determining the differences in a patient's tumour and in bringing new imaging methods to the clinic.

The Cancer Imaging Centre in Cambridge and Manchester

The Cancer Imaging Centre in Cambridge and Manchester combines cutting-edge translational research and clinical trials with state-of-the-art imaging, genomics and pre-clinical research. By combining these two locations the CMCIC has access to a large patient population and vital clinical trials infrastructure supported by Cancer Research UK's Experimental Cancer Research Centres (ECMCs).

EPSRC/CRUK Multidisciplinary awards

In 2015, our partnership has continued with collaboration on our joint Multidisciplinary Project Awards, which is aimed at supporting collaborations between cancer researchers and scientists from engineering/physical science disciplines. These are awarded jointly between Principal Investigators (PI) from engineering/physical science disciplines, and PIs who are working in cancer research. The call will be running until financial year 2019/20, with a joint anticipated spend of £37.5m.

Other Partnerships

National Institute for Health Research

In 2008 the NIHR in partnership with the Technology Strategy Board, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Medical Research Council funded two pilot Healthcare Technology Co-operatives (HTCs). NIHR Healthcare Technology Co-operatives are centres of expertise that work collaboratively with industry to develop concepts of new medical devices, healthcare technologies and technology-dependent interventions that improve treatment and quality of life for patients.

The aims of the NIHR HTCs are to:

  • Act as a catalyst for NHS "pull" for the development of new medical devices, healthcare technologies and technology-dependent interventions
  • Focus on clinical areas and/or themes of high morbidity, which have high potential for improving quality of life of NHS patients and improving the effectiveness of healthcare services that support them
  • Work collaboratively with patients and patient groups, charities, industry and academics.

Building on the pilot scheme the NIHR launched an open competition in January 2012, after which eight new HTCs were launched.

In 2014 the EPSRC funded eight EPSRC-NIHR Healthcare Technology Cooperatives Partnership Awards to enable collaborations between academia and the eight National Institutes for Health Research (NIHR) funded Healthcare Technology Cooperatives (HTCs).