The NHS has put out a call to the world’s innovators to find technology-based solutions that can help inform its response to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
A challenge has been issued via the NHSX website – the arm of the NHS that deals specifically with tech innovation. TechForce19 calls on companies and organisations to offer up their technology-based solutions, and up to 20 entrants will be chosen to win £25,000 in government funding to test their ideas.
“New technologies can support the vulnerable”
The brief for the competition, which was launched this week, specifies several different areas that companies could focus their innovation ideas on.
“We believe new technologies can help support the vulnerable, elderly and self-isolating as COVID-19 continues to spread,” says NHSX. The TechForce19 competition is open to all companies dealing in innovation, regardless of whether they have previously worked in the public sector.
Specified areas include remote social care solutions, such as delivering domiciliary care and technology in the home; optimisation of staffing in care and volunteer sectors, like projecting the demand for health and care workers to improve management of resources; and ideas around mental health, including how the NHS can facilitate the wellbeing of its employees with tech.
“Working technologies that can be deployed quickly”
Designers and innovators interested in the opportunity are being asked to complete an expression of interest form by 1 April. As part of this initial contact, applicants are asked how they would test out their ideas in situ over a two-week period, with £25,000 government funding.
Shortlisted companies, which will be chosen by NHSX and its partners, start-up support organisation Public and the Academic Health Science Network (AHSN), will then be asked to attend an online interview.
The short timeline for leads is due to the fast-moving nature of the coronavirus pandemic. This is also the reason why at present, the competition is not looking for ideas that require integration for current NHS systems.
“We are looking for working technologies that can be deployed quickly and have the potential to rapidly scale nationally,” says NHSX. “Selected solutions will work on a tight timeline, with the view to be able to test and potentially deploy their technologies in a matter of weeks.”
Rather, the team are looking for products that can work within the ever-changing remit of the NHS’ coronavirus response. As is to be expected, the requirements for products may change as things develop.
The brief for the competition is deliberately vague and covers several different potential targets.
However, some ideas for potential products have been mentioned by NHSX. These include platforms and products that could help find “healthy and qualified carers”, those that could help “recruit train and certify doctors” and mental health apps, though any “medical devices” will have to be certified as such.
For more information on TechForce19, visit the competition website.