A new initiative aims to position London as a global centre for the adoption and commercialisation of pioneering digital health technologies.

Launched today (10 February) at City Hall by Life Sciences Minister George Freeman, DigitalHealth.London will speed up the use of new digital health technologies by bringing together clinicians, healthcare providers, research institutes, entrepreneurs and industry to give companies a clearer route to market based on the needs of patients and the NHS.

Watch video clips from the launch here.

Its first major project, also launched today, is a new Digital Health Accelerator programme that will support emerging companies working in the digital healthcare sector.

First proposed by the London Health Commission report by Lord Darzi in 2014, DigitalHealth.London is a collaboration between MedCity, the Mayor of London’s life sciences promotional agency for the greater south east, the Greater London Authority, and the capital’s three Academic Health Science Networks – the Health Innovation Network, Imperial College Health Partners, and UCLPartners.

Digital health is a fast-growing emerging market with the potential to transform healthcare, improve efficiency in the NHS and grow the UK’s economy through innovative new businesses and products. However the use of digital health technologies is being slowed by challenges including the lack of a clear procurement route in the NHS, and difficulty in gaining access to clinicians and patients who can help shape products and explain needs and constraints at an early stage – for example to avoid replicating current technology or inadvertently creating costs further down the chain.

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DigitalHealth.London will tackle these challenges and promote better health and economic growth by:

  • Growing a network to build mutual understanding and relationships between industry, entrepreneurs, clinicians, patients and healthcare professionals
  • Clearly defining the need from clinicians and patients to help shape the ideas and products being developed by companies
  • Signposting clear routes to market for entrepreneurs
    Supporting the development of processes for NHS procurement and tariffs for digital health products
  • Helping to build evidence for the health and economic benefits of digital health by promoting research

Welcoming the initiative, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson MP said:

“This initiative will position London at the forefront of digital health innovation – bringing together the city’s world-class strengths in life sciences and digital technology and channelling that innovation to develop new ground-breaking products.”

The new DigitalHealth.London Accelerator will work with 30 small digital health businesses each year over an initial three year period, providing support tailored to each company’s individual needs. The programme will promote engagement with clinicians and healthcare experts, so that companies can refine their products to meet healthcare needs, and gain advice and support on some of the big healthcare hurdles they face – such as navigating the intricacies of the NHS, understanding how to work with sensitive data and accessing opportunities to showcase new technologies in hospitals.

The Accelerator will hold its first information day for SMEs on 7 March to demonstrate how the programme will support businesses and how they can apply. It is jointly funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the six delivery partners – Guy’s & St Thomas’s NHS Foundation Trust operating through the Health Innovation Network, UCLPartners, Imperial College Healthcare Partners, Chelsea and Westminster Health Charity, MedCity and Digital Catapult. Register for the event.

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Sarah Haywood, CEO of MedCity, says:

“Digital health is a tremendous opportunity for the UK, and London is in a prime position to lead the way. By creating a single access point for everyone with an interest in digital health, we can generate an efficient and demand-focused pipeline that means potentially transformative technologies are reaching patients and the NHS much more speedily, and companies can grow and succeed.”

Professor Joanne Hackett, Director of Commercial Development at UCLPartners, says:

“Cross-fertilisation between life sciences and digital technologies is creating a host of new ways to empower people to manage and understand their own health. London is home to a vibrant ecosystem of entrepreneurs and SMEs finding imaginative ways to meet that demand. Our focus through this initiative is to bring health services and industry into the same space so that by understanding each other better we create an environment in which small businesses can grow – enriching both our economy and our well-being.”

Dr Adrian Bull, Managing Director of Imperial College Health Partners, says:

“We are acutely aware that the NHS is a large and complex organisation, and many entrepreneurs struggle to know how to engage with us. However there is huge enthusiasm amongst our staff to take advantage of the opportunities digital health offers and to work with innovative companies to develop the right new products. Through DigitalHealth.London we can share understanding and expertise, and pioneer models to adopt innovation speedily – it’s a hugely exciting opportunity.”

Tara Donnelly, Managing Director of the Health Innovation Network, says:

“Patients and clinicians are vital partners in healthcare innovation, and need to be at the centre of new product development. Patients are the people who know their condition best and understand the day to day reality of living with it. Their perspective on the challenges and opportunities is crucial to businesses developing solutions, and facilitating access to patients will be a very important part of what DigitalHealth.London does.”

DigitalHealth.London is launched today (Wednesday 10 February) at City Hall. Speakers include Minister for Life Sciences George Freeman MP, Deputy Mayor Sir Edward Lister, HICCup founder Esther Dyson, National Voices Chair Hilary Newiss, and physician and leading digital health investor Vishal Gulati.

See more at www.digitalhealth.london.