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David Willetts launches £3.7m investment fund for photonics-based healthcare

11 March 2013

Science minister, David Willetts has announced a £3.7m investment to fund projects that apply innovative photonics technologies to solve challenges in the health sector.

David Willetts
David Willetts

The investment seeks to encourage the formation of new business-led partnerships between academia, industry and health providers, to validate and highlight new applications of photonics in healthcare. The investment will be administered by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and run as a two-part process - the first part being a single-stage competition for feasibility studies, including at least one small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) and lasting between 6 and 12 months. Some £1.5m will be allocated to this strand, with individual project awards of up to £100k.

The second part is a two-stage competition for collaborative R&D projects, again, including at least one SME. Projects will last between 12 and 24 months. £2.2m is allocated to this strand, with individual project awards of up to £750k available.

TSB chief executive, Iain Gray says this is an important announcement for the UK bio-photonics industry, particularly because of the collaborative nature of the competition, which he believes will stimulate innovation and new cross-sector, industry-led collaborations across all tiers of the supply chain in photonics for health.  

“The  involvement of clinical and industrial end-users in both the feasibility studies and R&D stages of the competition will help ensure not just that the NHS and clinicians fully understand the potential of next generation photonic technologies, but that they can bring their expertise to bear in the development of a range of new tools for less invasive diagnosis and surgery.”

Examples (not exhaustive)
Therapy using light, for example, phototherapy for dermatological conditions, photodynamic therapy etc. 
Combining treatment with diagnostics – theranostics, to locate and address problems 
Laser procedures in ophthalmology, for example, correction for near and far-sightedness in vision, photorefractive keratectomy, and general surgery such as endovascular surgery and gastro-intestinal surgery 
Oncology (excluding in-vivo imaging) 
Laser for manufacture of medical devices, for example stents, catheters and structuring of prosthesis 
Genomic research and drug discovery 
Microbiology (viral and bacterial analysis) 
Sterilisation using light sources 
Novel biomedical materials that change properties after light treatment 
In-vitro diagnostics, for example, using optical microscopy and spectroscopy for cell-based studies to identify and treat diseases such as cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. 

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