A new £30 million initiative to help encourage the development of biomedical engineering solutions to healthcare problems has been unveiled by The Wellcome Trust and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Under the Innovative Engineering for Health partnerships, up to £10 million is up for grabs for each selected project (a total of three or four), which will address "a defined need in healthcare for which current solutions are inadequate or lacking", the groups said.

During the selection process, priority will be given to those proposals - from either academia or commercial organisations from around the globe - that could have a beneficial effect on particularly difficult issues in medicine or public health "through the application of exciting engineering concepts". 

Technologies with the potential to mitigate rare diseases or engineering approaches to mental health have been flagged as examples of themes the initiative is looking to fund, though all other proposals that address an unmet need in healthcare will be considered.

Unique opportunity

The move provides a unique opportunity for scientists to see their ideas translated into healthcare solutions, offering the resources and flexibility to conduct high-quality basic research and enable its uptake into clinical or public health practice.

"Bringing together the UK's world-class biomedical and physical sciences researchers will be vital in developing the technology to solve our biggest healthcare challenges," noted David Willetts, the Minister for Universities and Science, commenting on the initiative. 

"This unique initiative supports both basic science and its translation, advancing knowledge and bringing benefits for patients," he said.

Details of the winning proposals are expected in July next year.

The scheme builds on the success of a £45-million initiative from The Wellcome Trust and the EPSRC launched in 2008 to support multidisciplinary projects in medical engineering.