NHS England investment fund SBRI Healthcare has launched its autumn competition offering entrepreneurs the opportunity for funding to drive forward their innovations within general practice.

Total funding of up to £1.1 million is on offer to each successful company, with £100,000 given for initial feasibility studies and then a further £1 million potentially available for prototype development.

The funding pot is designed to help small businesses develop and commercialise "game changing" technologies that address three key challenges areas in the field of general practice.

SBRI Healthcare says it is seeking technology solutions that improve demand forecasting for primary care services, given the "significant volume" of workload currently being transferred across from the acute care sector.

Elsewhere, solutions are sought that bring "rapid, reliable and robust diagnostic testing" within primary care to enable earlier triage and potentially redesign of care pathways, as the current system largely relies on acute care for diagnostics, "adding waiting time and complex logistics to GP services".

Also, technologies that encourage patients to care for themselves in partnership with their GP are a focus in this round of the competition, in a bid to boost self-care and disease prevention and thus reduce the strain on serivces.

"NHS general practice is revered across the globe, but we know we need to transform the way the public sees our service and to equip our frontline staff with the game changing technology that will revolutionise primary care," said Karen Livingstone, national director, SBRI Healthcare and Director of Partnerships and Industry Engagement, Eastern AHSN, explaining the focus.

"Through this SBRI Healthcare competition the NHS will work with innovative and dynamic entrepreneurs - the challenges are significant and that is why we are prepared to invest in solutions."

SBRI Healthcare is led by England's Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs). The initiative has already streamed £57 million into developing innovative products and services that target unmet health needs and stimulate economic growth which, it is claimed, could eventually save the NHS some £1 billion.