UK healthcare companies are being given the chance to tap into a novel £100 million government scheme to drive innovation across various sectors including health, defence and transport.

The Small Business Research Initiative has been set up by the government and is being promoted by the Technology Strategy Board to support the development of new products and services, under which public sector organisations will invite British companies to submit ideas that will ultimately help improve public services.

According to the government, the new SBRI programme will drive innovation in the country by providing business opportunities for innovative companies whilst solving the needs of government departments.

“Its all about solving problems using clever new thinking,” explains SBRI head Mark Glover. “There are lots of novel and exciting ideas out there and SBRI enables the public sector to seek out these innovative ideas and then support turning them into commercial, viable products and services.”

The Department of Health ran a pilot of the scheme last year inviting companies to come up with new technologies and processes to boost hand hygiene and curb the spread of hospital-acquired infections such as the notorious superbug MRSA, and is now planning on funding similar competitions to address other areas of need.

In addition, East of England Strategic Health Authority is on the verge of introducing three new SBRI competitions that seek new technologies to improve the management of patients with long-term conditions, better patient monitoring and encourage children to be more physically active.

Further touting the scheme’s benefits, Glover said the SBRI will enable businesses to develop highly commercial and valuable new products that help public sector organisations solve problems and address needs. “And, of course, we all benefit from improved services,” he stressed.

Report calls for more NHS innovation
Meanwhile, a report from the NHS Confederation published this morning has called on NHS leaders to better promote a culture of innovation in clinical practice and management.

Leading Innovation stresses the NHS "must constantly look at new practices and technologies to save money, drive efficiency and improve the quality of care for patients" if it wants to hold on to its status as a world-class health system.

The report warns that excessive bureaucracy can hold back innovation and that "a lack of access to innovation budgets can also mean good ideas struggle to get the funding they need".

In addition, Nigel Edwards, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, said that the troubled economic climate will make efficiency gains crucial and that innovation will play a key role in this, and he warned: "Those NHS organisations unable to create a culture of continuous redesign and challenge to existing practice will struggle in the coming years".

The SBRI should go some way to address the problem of funding novel ideas, but even more of an impact will likely be made by the £220 NHS innovation fund unveiled by the government earlier this week, which is designed to help provide the means to convert new healthcare ideas and solutions into reality.