Innovative new tech projects awarded funding to help veterans healthcare

From: Cabinet Office
Published: Wed Feb 22 2023

5 million awarded to 22 projects to drive forward cutting-edge treatments and technologies to support veterans' healthcare

  • 5 million awarded to 22 projects to drive forward cutting-edge treatments and technologies to support veterans' healthcare
  • The projects bring the best of British science and research from across different sectors to help address physical and mental health
  • Funding will improve UK capability to save lives and include research into female veteran health, prosthetics and E-plasters

Projects harnessing cutting-edge technology, innovation and research have been launched today to help the physical and mental health of veterans, and in the future have the potential to contribute to mainstream and improved treatments by the NHS.

The newly announced recipients of the Office for Veterans' Affairs' (OVA) Health Innovation Fund, delivered in collaboration with the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA), include leading academic institutions, private sector companies and charities from across the UK.

The OVA has also confirmed today that the UK will host a Five Eyes International Ministerial Conference on Veterans later this year. The conference will bring together partners from the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand to discuss and share best practice on veterans issues.

The funding will help spur innovation, ensure that treatments are informed by the latest research and developments in clinical care, and bring the best of UK science and technology to the forefront of veterans health.

Twenty two innovative projects are having funding confirmed today, including:

  • Four linked projects by Imperial College London to develop prosthetics, including innovative implants to treat limb pain. The projects will make use of cutting edge surgery techniques and how they can improve prosthetics for patients.
  • NuTissu, a company specialising in advanced material technology, will develop E-Plasters - an innovative wound healing technique that uses advanced biomaterials and electricity to accelerate the healing of skin wounds. The E-Plasters will be explored to see how they could improve veterans' quality of life, and also reduce the costs of long term chronic wound care.
  • Scientists at the University of Birmingham will use biomarkers in blood and saliva from veterans who have suffered traumatic brain injury to develop an algorithm to predict prognosis and treatment.
  • The University of Exeter and company IonaMind will develop and evaluate AI powered tech to treat depression and anxiety in female veterans.

Minister for Veterans' Affairs Johnny Mercer said:

I'm delighted that we're providing funding to these projects today. Utilising the latest developments in research and clinical care, these initiatives will spur innovation and new techniques to treat veterans - both with physical and mental health conditions - who have been injured in the line of duty.

The Minister for Veterans' Affairs yesterday (Tuesday 21st February) visited NuTissu, a biotech company based in Nottingham. The Minister visited their London based laboratory, speaking with staff and leadership from the company, to learn more about their project and how it could improve the healthcare outcomes of veterans.

On the visit the Minister was shown a demo of the app which veterans would use to control the E-Plaster, as well as, the process for how the final products will be made from the innovative materials designed by the company.

Secretary of State at the new Department for Science, Innovation & Technology, Michelle Donelan, said:

It is great to see the Office for Veterans' Affairs providing funding to drive forward cutting-edge science and technology that will change lives.

Starting with those who have been wounded while serving this country, these initiatives have the potential to be utilised more widely, putting UK healthcare at the forefront of innovation.

The Veterans' Health Innovation Fund is one of many schemes put in place by this government to improve the healthcare on offer to veterans across the country. These include Op COURAGE and the Veterans Trauma Network.

Notes to editors:

  • The Veterans' Health Innovation Fund was announced in the Autumn 2021 Budget and Spending Review by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak.
  • The projects were chosen through competitive competition, with the Minister for Veterans' Affairs deciding which organisations would receive funding.
  • The Veterans' Health Innovation Fund competition was run by the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA), on behalf of the OVA. DASA finds and funds exploitable innovation to support UK defence and security quickly and effectively, and support UK prosperity.

  • Full list of winning projects:
    • Imperial College London - Subject to contract signing - four separate, yet complementary projects looking at further research to improve prosthetics for amputee veterans. The four projects will consider areas including evaluating direct skeletal fixation surgery (an innovative surgery that helps veterans who require prosthetics); investigating the long-term consequences of low back pain linked to prosthetic users; delivering an orthopaedic implant for amputees to treat residual limb pain and ulceration; and predicting the impact of socket redesign, daily task adherence, and prosthetic fixation on long term bone health.
    • Blesma: The Limbless Veterans Charity to explore the lived experience of injured veterans who are wheelchair and electronic powered vehicle users, and to provide a comparison of the effectiveness of selected categories of assistive technologies.
    • Imperial College London and Anglia Ruskin University - Subject to contract signing - to evaluate the Veterans Trauma Network (an NHS England treatment pathway for veterans with physical health needs), with a view to supporting its future growth and development.
    • Imperial College London and Northumbria University - Subject to contract signing - to create a comprehensive evidence base for the physical health needs of the veteran community.
    • University of Birmingham to evaluate blood biomarkers against visual and clinical assessments from veterans who have suffered traumatic brain injury to help develop an algorithm to predict prognosis in veterans.
    • Imperial College London to the ADVANCE study, the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre, Wellcome Trust and Defence Medical Services - Subject to contract signing - asubject to contract signing - to investigate the characteristics of combat injury, and key medical and surgical interventions to evaluate whether these have a beneficial effect on the long-term outcomes in UK veterans.
    • Forward Assist to look at and develop a clear understanding of the multiple and complex issues faced by military veterans with lived experience of sexual assault, and identify gaps in service provision.
    • Cardiff University - Subject to contract signing - to develop online military-focused cognitive behavioural therapy to support veterans with PTSD.
    • NuTissu ltd (working with EG Technologies, Hallmark Care Homes, Centre for Process Innovation Limited, University of Nottingham FRAME labs, KTN and Conductive Transfers ltd) to develop E-Plasters to enable a degree of self-management of rapid and complete wound healing to reduce the risk of veterans developing pressure sores later in life.
    • Radii Devices Ltd (working with the Universities of Bath and Southampton, Blesma, Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust and Unai) to develop an app to allow prosthesis users to record discomfort, with the data enabling insights for prosthetists to optimise comfort and deliver socket fitting that is right-first-time.
    • Anglia Ruskin University, Leeds Beckett University, The King's Centre for Military Health Research, the Veterans' Trauma Network and Defence Medical Welfare Services to co-design recommendations for improving service delivery and care pathways for female veterans' physical health.
    • Bravo Victor working with Esme's Umbrella and Moorfields Eye Hospital to improve understanding of visual hallucinations among military veterans and refine management strategies to ensure individuals receive an accurate diagnosis and appropriate healthcare.
    • University of Leicester - Subject to contract signing - to develop an online test to maximise the accessibility of assessments carried out in medical practices or independently at home, and provide clinicians fast access to information that is crucial to the accurate diagnosis of PTSD.
    • St John and Red Cross Defence Medical Welfare Service, NHS Lanarkshire and the University of the West of Scotland to look at how welfare support and technology can benefit isolated veterans in Lanarkshire, with eventual application across the UK.
    • University of Exeter and IonaMind to develop and evaluate an artificial intelligence-supported intervention to treat depression and anxiety in female veterans.
    • King's College London and Combat Stress to enhance a digital application so it can better support female veterans with problem drinking.
    • Umio (working with Cognuse, a Comprehensive Rehabilitation Platform for the Continuum of Care) to develop a veteran chronic pain peer-support and self-learning/management platform, which will help veterans to live better and well with long-term pain.
    • Swansea University to evaluate the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of a smartphone-based app to reduce harmful gambling and PTSD symptoms among veterans.
    • Northumbria University to assess the impacts of, and risks associated with, military service on brain health in female veterans.
Company: Cabinet Office

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