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Funding success for healthcare innovations in the North West

Two organisations working with the NHS have received national funding for their healthcare innovations.

Liverpool-based cloud services provider AIMES and South West professional digital healthcare company Brain in Hand, which has staff in Preston and Warrington, have each received over £700,000. The funding will help both businesses expand their work with the NHS, developing new technologies to tackle health challenges.

Both companies are backed by the Innovation Agency, the Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) for the North West Coast.

They received the funding through the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) Healthcare, an NHS England and NHS Improvement initiative supported by the AHSN Network which aims to promote UK economic growth while addressing unmet health needs. The Innovation Agency supported their funding applications.

AIMES, in partnership with University College London (UCL) and Barts Health NHS Trust, developed the OpenCARE platform which uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to improve cardiovascular care.

Cardiologists rely on images to diagnose and treat heart disease. Some of their decisions have life-changing potential so it is important that the images are interpreted correctly.

The OpenCARE platform interprets these images using advanced AI with a degree of precision no human being could match. This improves decision-making and patient care, and by automating time-consuming measurement processes, which are also prone to error, clinicians can be freed up to spend more time with patients.

OpenCARE is also available on the Government’s G-Cloud Framework for direct procurement by NHS and research bodies.

AIMES Senior Business Development Manager Antony Shimmin said: “The funding from SBRI will support the next steps for OpenCARE. Currently OpenCARE is only used to measure some aspects of the heart, but we plan to extend it to measure the entirety of heart function.

“The solution has currently only been used in trials and research, but with a regulatory approved algorithm set it can be used in direct clinical care, reducing the societal and NHS costs of treating cardiovascular disease”

AIMES Chief Executive Officer Dr Dennis Kehoe said: “The Innovation Agency were fundamental to our success in phase one of SBRI funding. We’ve worked closely with the Innovation Agency since OpenCARE’s inception. The team have helped us articulate the purpose of OpenCARE in terms of health economics: why it’s good, and what makes it special.”

Brain in Hand is a digital self-management support system combining digital and human support to help people live more independently. Designed for autistic people, individuals with learning difficulties, and those who are managing mental health challenges it helps people achieve more with less support.

Brain in Hand currently operates across 60 locations in the UK, including Knowsley, Liverpool, Warrington and Wigan. Typically, projects are within local authority transition teams or adult social care. It is also approved by the Department for Education as a system tool for supporting students through higher education and by the Department for Work and Pensions for Access to Work programmes. Thousands of autistic people and those managing mental health challenges students are using Brain in Hand, with at least one user in almost every university in the UK.

Dr Louise Morpeth, CEO of Brain in Hand, said: “We are over the moon to be SBRI grantees and to have the opportunity to demonstrate the value of our unique system, which provides a 24/7 dedicated digital support system for autistic people. We are grateful to our partners for joining us on this exciting project.

“The pandemic has shown that it is time to embrace the potential of technology to support those who are so often excluded or overlooked. We look forward to seeing digital health solutions take their proper place in the continuum of care.”

Brain in Hand Chief Innovation Officer Heather Cook said: “The Innovation Agency has been integral to this award. Their commercial support team have a great deal of experience in bid writing and were able to guide us and advise us on our application. The team acted as a panel to put us through a mock interview, ensuring we felt prepared.

“The Innovation Agency have helped us think about alignment with the NHS long term plan and the needs of the health and care system during COVID. We work closely with three AHSNs: the Innovation Agency, Yorkshire and Humber AHSN and Health Innovation Network. They have helped us develop a clear, compelling value proposition, demonstrating how your solution integrates into a care pathway and how it aligns to unmet need.”

Lorna Green, Innovation Agency Director of Enterprise and Growth, said: “We’re thrilled to see success with SBRI for two innovative, creative organisations with products that will make a real difference to patient care. This marks a great step forward for both AIMES and Brain in Hand, and we look forward to continuing to work with them on their journeys to integrate their solutions with health and care.”