Tech pros & academia launch competition to tackle NHS challenges with AI

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Healthy ageing and mental health are among the two key challenge areas facing the NHS.

By U2B Staff 

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No longer the stuff of science fiction, artificial intelligence (AI) has become a big part of the global healthcare ecosystem.

From assisting drug development to clinical research and hospital care, the technology has the potential of doing more than improve patient care–if harnessed the right way, it could save lives.

As applications of the technology continue to evolve across different industries, investments are pouring in for healthcare AI, accelerating the pace of innovations in this space. Universities, public research institutions and technologists around the world are combining academic and technical expertise to build better, smarter AI solutions, and seek out new use cases in healthcare.

According to some estimates, total investments will hit US$6.6 billion by 2021. The returns, it seems, are even greater: Accenture predicts that AI applications may result in annual savings of a stunning US$150 billion by 2026.


Building on this momentum, a combination of public and private sector entities in the UK have come together to launch a new and novel initiative on healthcare AI.

Their goal? To help the National Health Service (NHS) achieve its Long-Term Plan for UK healthcare.

Their method? A competition bringing together the best and brightest minds in tech and academia.

Launched by Eastern AHSN, Central Working and Studio Zao, MedTechBOOST is open to entrepreneurs, students, early-stage startups, tech and healthcare professionals, and anyone with an early idea or concept on how to use AI to address some of the challenges faced by the NHS.

“This is one of the most ambitious collaborative health tech programmes the UK has seen, bringing world-leading universities and global businesses together with the very best individuals from the startup, tech, academic and medical fields,” Central Working Director James Parton says.

“MedTechBOOST offers individuals and early-stage startups unprecedented access to the NHS and a roster of multinational businesses and investor networks, providing a life-changing experience for anyone pursuing a career in healthcare or AI.”

For the competition, participants will work on ideas that aim to solve a set of challenges put together by Eastern AHSN, Cambridge & Peterborough Foundation Trust and VOICE:

  • Mental Health – can AI be applied to improve patients’ safety and prevent suicidal behaviour or detect impending violent behaviours?
  • Healthy Ageing – can AI facilitate targeted, personalised care in older people with multiple co-morbidities and to detect Alzheimer’s disease before symptoms arise?

According to a release on the competition, these are major areas of focus in the Long-Term Plan, a strategic 10-year roadmap to improve the health and lives of UK citizens. 


Successful applicants will be put through a rigorous five-day ideation programme where they will be provided with the best available support to help guide their ideas into viable tech solutions. 

This is their opportunity to work side-by-side with senior healthcare professionals to explore ways to address healthcare’s challenges using groundbreaking technology, Studio Zao Managing Partner Jamie Qiu says.

“By building teams from domain experts and surrounding them with dedicated guidance and advice, MedTechBoost provides a unique opportunity to rapidly transform an interesting idea into a viable concept which can be adopted by the NHS and change the lives of patients,” he adds. 

Bradfield Centre
MedTechBOOST will take place this September at The Bradfield Centre, on the Cambridge Science Park. Source: Provided

Among others, participants will be receiving expert guidance and mentoring from programme partners such as including sponsors Cambridge Judge Business School Entrepreneurship Centre, as well as AstraZeneca, ARM, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust and Johnson & Johnson Innovation.

After the ideation stage, participants will pitch their winning ideas to the NHS and big businesses in the field for potential investment and contract opportunities, or collaboration with programme partners and sponsors.

Commenting on the competition, Cambridge Judge Business School Entrepreneurship Centre’s Executive Director Bruno Cotta said:

“Advances in mental health and healthy ageing are significant technical and managerial challenges facing the NHS and society. We look forward to working with our partners and participants as they explore new ideas, technology and business models that could create value and impact in the future.”

EAHSN Commercial Director Louise Jopling said the competition presents a great opportunity to take the best ideas forward and turn them into real solutions that deliver impact.

“Eastern AHSN is delighted to kick start this programme working with the NHS and the local community to identify system needs that could one day provide health and social care solutions within, and beyond, the Eastern region.

“We are passionate about bringing networks of the brightest specialists together and excited by the breadth of organisations involved in the mentoring support,” she said.


Eastern AHSN is part of a national network established by NHS England to accelerate and scale healthcare innovation. Since 2013, it has leveraged more than £83 million worth of investments into East England, awarding 57 contracts to supported companies and overseeing the adoption of 17 new innovations into the local health system and the NHS.

Interested participants are invited to apply online at by July 31. To qualify, participants need not be experienced in the healthcare sector – they simply need to have an early-stage idea or concept that can be developed further.

MedTechBOOST will take place on September 2, 2019, at The Bradfield Centre, Trinity College’s £20 million deep tech hub on Cambridge Science Park.