Government seeks innovators for space-enabled hospitals

Up to £5 million of UK Space Agency funding is available to support a joint initiative with the Hampshire Together: Modernising our Hospitals and Health Services programme. The programme is part of the government’s Health Infrastructure Plan, which includes the provision of 40 new hospitals across England by 2030.

The space-enabled services could be inspired by a whole range of activities and technologies pioneered by the UK’s growing space sector, which currently contributes nearly £15 billion to GDP and supports 42,000 jobs.  They might include new diagnostic tools, improved logistics by tracing goods or using drones, improving hospital parking or better patient reach using tele-rehabilitation or care.

Space is already playing an important role in supporting healthcare. The UK Space Agency has provided funding for projects to help the NHS tackle the Coronavirus pandemic, including electric drones that navigate via satellite-enabled GPS, carrying COVID-19 samples, test-kits and PPE to improve delivery times and free up transport infrastructure.

Health technologies inspired by space technologies have helped provide real-time diagnosis of bowel cancer, developed more compact 3D X-ray machines and improved healthcare in the community through both remote diagnostics and an app targeting people at risk of social isolation and mental health issues.

The Hampshire Together programme is a partnership between a wide range of bodies responsible for the health and wellbeing of the people of north and mid Hampshire, focused on ensuring that any investment is made not just in hospital buildings – but in local people.

The call for space-inspired ideas is supported by the European Space Agency’s Space Solutions, through their Business Applications programme, in which the UK is the leading investor. The UK continues to be a leading member of ESA, which is independent of the EU, having committed a record investment of £374 million per year in November 2019.

A Panel of experts, including representatives from the UK Space Agency, Hampshire Together and ESA, will assess the proposals for how space-derived technologies can contribute to the design, development and utilisation of services for any new hospital and its surrounding community.

The successful projects, which could be new ideas, or using technology that already exists in a different way to support healthcare, will then be incorporated in any new facility, as well as the wider health system. Where appropriate, these ideas will also be used to improve services across the area before the construction of any new buildings.

For more information on how to apply for the funding go to https://business.esa.int/funding/intended-tender/nhs-future-hospitals-initiative