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Artificial intelligence funding

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Artificial intelligence has enormous potential for improving healthcare across all areas of the NHS and social care. NIHR currently has three routes for researchers and industry partners seeking funding for health research involving artificial intelligence.

The NIHR has three funding streams to support health and care research that involves artificial intelligence (AI).

The Artificial Intelligence in Health and Care Award (AI Award) supports AI solutions across the whole development pathway, from initial feasibility to clinical implementation. It is funded by NHS England and NHS Improvement and the NIHR  in partnership with the Accelerated Access Collaborative and NHSX. Projects funded in the first round were announced in September 2020

The Artificial Intelligence for Multiple Long-Term Conditions (Multimorbidity) call (AIM) supports research to spearhead the use of AI and data science to address the challenges of multiple long-term conditions (multimorbidity) or MLTC-M.  The call is part of the NHSX’s NHS AI Lab and is enabled by the NIHR.

The Artificial Intelligence and Racial and Ethnic Inequalities in Health and Care call supports research to advance AI and data-driven technologies in health in ways that better meet the needs of minority ethnic populations. The call is jointly funded by NHSX’s NHS AI Lab and The Health Foundation and enabled by the NIHR. 

Introduction

The AI in Health and Care Award will deploy £140m over three years to accelerate the testing and evaluation of the most promising AI technologies that meet the strategic aims set out in the NHS Long Term Plan.

The AI in Health and Care Award is run in partnership with the Accelerated Access Collaborative (AAC) and NHSX. It is part of the NHS AI Lab announced by the Health Secretary in 2019. 

The AI in Health and Care Award supports AI technologies across the spectrum of development, from initial feasibility to evaluation within clinical pathways in the NHS and social care settings, to the point that they could be nationally commissioned. Phases 1-2 aim to create a pipeline of products, interventions and services that are ready for wider testing.  Key areas of focus for Phases 3 and 4 include triage, imaging, screening and intelligent operational automation.

Applications may be submitted by a small-to-medium-sized enterprise (SME), an NHS or social care organisation or service provider,  a higher education institution, charity or local authority. Additionally for Phases 3 and 4, the call is open to large enterprises.

What do we fund?

Phases 1 and 2 of the award support feasibility, development and clinical evaluation of AI technologies. Phases 3 and 4 of the award support real world testing, initial systems adoption of AI technologies with market authorisation into the NHS, evaluating the AI technology within clinical or operational pathways to determine efficacy or accuracy and clinical and economic impact.

  • Phase 1 is intended to show the technical and clinical feasibility of the proposed concept, product or service. Awards are for a maximum of £150,000 over a 6-12 month period.
  • Phase 2 is intended to develop and evaluate prototypes of demonstration units and generate early clinical safety and efficacy data. Award amounts are uncapped (any amount can be requested but must be reasonably justified), funding awards are per product, typically for 12-36 months.
  • Phase 3 is intended to support first real-world testing in health and social care settings to develop further evidence of efficacy and preliminary proof of effectiveness, including evidence for routes to implementation to enable more rapid adoption. Awards are uncapped (any amount can be requested but must be reasonably justified), funding awards are per product, typically for 12-36 months.
  • Phase 4 is intended to identify medium stage AI technologies that have market authorisation but insufficient evidence to merit large-scale commissioning or deployment. We will support testing and evaluation of these technologies within routine clinical or operational pathways to determine efficacy or accuracy, and clinical and economic impact. Grants are uncapped, funding awards are per technology, typically for 12-36 months.

Phases 1 and 2 are delivered through the well-established and robust mechanisms underpinning the NIHR Invention for Innovation (i4i) programme and the NHS England and NHS Improvement SBRI Healthcare programme, with an indicative budget of £2-7m. This early stage pipeline will be managed by the NIHR i4i and SBRI Healthcare Programme Management Office, in close collaboration with the AAC Delivery Team.

Through Phases 3 and 4, the AAC Delivery Team will facilitate initial real world testing and systems adoption of the AI technologies into the NHS and/or social care setting. 

How do I apply?

The AI Award supports innovators and technologies across the spectrum of development, from concept through to initial NHS adoption and testing of the AI technology within clinical pathways. You may only apply to one phase per product.

Read more about the specifications for different phases, and the entry points and fundable activities, in our guidance for applicants

See the dates for our funding competitions to find out when funding is available. The AI Award is run as a two stage application process. Shortlisted applicants from stage 1 are invited to submit a full proposal at stage 2. Please see competition guidance, finance guidance and FAQs for further information.

If you have consulted the website and the applicant guidance and are still unsure if your proposal is within remit, please complete an enquiry form with details of your enquiry and your proposed project. 

Stage 1

Applications should be submitted online through the Research Management System (RMS). Please ensure you have read the guidance for completing a Stage 1 application form.

Stage 2

Stage 2 applications are by invite only and should be submitted online through the RMS.  Please ensure you have read the guidance for completing a Stage 2 application form.

Advice for applicants

The Competition 2 launch webinar and specific Phase 1-2 and 3-4 webinars can be viewed on theNHSX  AI Lab Virtual Hub.  Please note that you will need to request access by emailing aivirtualhub-manager@future.nhs.uk in order to access the hub and view the webinars. 

NHSX have launched the AI Lab Virtual Hub as a platform setup to allow stakeholders to directly connect rather than just coming through the award. We recommend that you join and you encourage collaborative partners to join for more resources and for engaging with colleagues across the NHS. 

Introduction

The Artificial Intelligence for Multiple Long-Term Conditions (Multimorbidity) call (AIM) supports research to spearhead the use of advanced data science and AI methods - combined with existing methodology and expertise in clinical practice, applied health and care research and social science - to systematically identify new clusters of disease and the development of conditions over the life course. This research will develop insights into the identification and subsequent prevention of multiple long-term conditions (multimorbidity) or MLTC-M.

This £23m call will generate a pipeline of data science and artificial intelligence translational research projects to understand and map clusters of MLTC-M. The call will support research collaborations and partnerships between leading academic institutions, health and care researchers, AI experts, and practitioners. This call aims to grow capacity and capability for multi-disciplinary working in MLTC-M for the benefit of patients, practitioners and the public. 

The call is part of the NHSX’s NHS AI Lab and is enabled by the NIHR.

NIHR has produced a Strategic Framework for MLTC-M research. This outlines what NIHR means when we talk about MLTC-M, our research priorities in this area and the actions we are putting in place to support them.

Read the NIHR Strategic Framework for MLCT-M research

What do we fund?

The AIM call funds programmes of research that use AI and data science methods, combined with expertise in clinical practice, applied health and care research and social science, to systematically identify or explore clusters of disease. In addition to the identification and mapping of new clusters of disease, the call seeks research to better understand the trajectories of patients with MLTC-M over time and throughout the life course, including the influence of wider determinants such as environmental, behavioural and psychosocial factors.

The funding available through this call will lead to scientific understanding which will allow researchers to start addressing key challenges in the treatment and management of MLTC-M in the health and social care system in the future. We have three primary longer term aims that include:

  • The development of solutions which will improve the quality of life and health outcomes for people with MLTC-M.
  • The exploration of new approaches and future industry collaborations to diagnose disease early, progress drug development and address the burden of polypharmacy.
  • The implementation of measures to reduce progression to a greater number of conditions.

In particular, we seek applications from cross-disciplinary and cross-institutional teams to develop research in this important field. A total of £20m will be allocated between two streams - larger Research Collaborations and smaller, preparatory Development Awards.

Research Collaborations of £2.5-5m will be funded for up to 36 months (in wave 1).

Applicants who are interested in applying for a Research Collaboration award, but need more time and resources to develop a competitive proposal, may apply for preparatory Development Awards of up to £120k for 8 months. Development Awards should clearly describe how the preparatory work will inform the development of a future Research Collaboration application.

In addition, NIHR will fund a Research Support Facility (RSF) to work with Research Collaborations funded through the AIM call. The RSF will focus on the delivery of centralised AI and advanced data science support; capacity and capability in AI and MLTC-M research; foster a collaborative approach and a culture of shared learning; and provide a leadership role to facilitate impact from the AIM call.

How do I apply?

The Research Collaboration and Research Support Facility (RSF) funding waves are run as a two stage application process. At stage 1, an outline form needs to be completed. Shortlisted applicants are invited to submit a full proposal at stage 2. The application process for Development Awards is run in one stage.

Read the call specification for full details of this funding call. More information about the call is available in the frequently asked questions.

Applications should be submitted online through the Research Management System

Introduction

The AI and Racial and Ethnic Inequalities in Health and Care call funds research projects focused on enabling AI and data-driven technologies to deliver better health outcomes for minority ethnic communities.

This £1.55 million call will fund research to:

  • Better understand and enable opportunities to use AI to ensure innovation happens in response to the health needs of minority ethnic groups
  • Contribute to improving the quality, availability and appropriate use of datasets to account for ethnic diversity in the development of AI models
  • Improve the development, testing and deployment of AI models across patient populations to reduce bias and improve the performance and accuracy of emerging and existing tools for different subpopulations

The call is jointly funded by NHS AI Lab and The Health Foundation and enabled by the NIHR. This call is a part of the NHS AI Lab’s AI Ethics Initiative, which will invest in research and trial practical interventions to ensure that AI products used in the NHS and care settings do not exacerbate health inequalities.

What do we fund?

The call will fund two categories of research:

1) Understanding and enabling the opportunities to use AI to address inequalities

  • Funded by The Health Foundation
  • Awards of £175,000 to £275,000

2) Optimising datasets, and improving AI development, testing and deployment

  • Funded by the NHS AI Lab
  • Awards of £200,000 to £500,000

Both categories will fund projects of 12 to 24 months duration.

The projects will be selected primarily on their potential value to the health service and social care system and on the improved outcomes delivered for those in receipt of care. Read more about the areas covered by this call in the competition brief.

How do I apply?

This one stage funding call is open to UK-based higher education institutions, third sector organisations, charities, and NHS organisations or providers of NHS or social care services.

The call opened on Wednesday 24 March 2021. The deadline for applications is 13:00 on Wednesday 28 April 2021.

A Q&A for potential applicants was held on Wednesday 10 March 2021 as part of the launch event for the NHS AI Lab AI Ethics Initiative. The recording of the event is available on NHSX's NHS AI Virtual Hub (once registered). Another Q&A was held on Thursday 8 April.

Applications should be submitted online through the Research Management System. You can download an example application form to prepare your proposal ahead of submission.

Please see the guidance for applicants, finance guidance and frequently asked questions for further information on how to complete an application.

The three AI calls are national competitions with applications reviewed by a national multi-disciplinary funding panel and assessor pool comprising specialist technical, clinical and commercial experts and patient and public representatives.

Expert assessors and panel members review all applications and make funding recommendations based on the quality of applications, with support from public and expert peer reviewers.

Members of NIHR Committees are required to declare any interests which conflict, or may be considered to conflict, with NIHR business, or may be perceived as influencing decisions made in the course of their work within NIHR programmes. All members are asked to complete the Register of Interest form (annually), which is intended to capture long term predictable interests that could be perceived to lead to conflicts of interest. These and other interests are judged on a case by case basis at individual meetings.

NIHR registry of interests

Our selection panels

View the full membership of the Artificial Intelligence in Health and Care Award panels.

We offer a wide variety of assistance during all stages of the application process. If in doubt, please get in touch. Our operating hours are 9am to 5pm.

AI in Health and Care Award

Email: enquiries@ai-award.info

AI for Multiple Long-Term Conditions

Email: AIM@nihr.ac.uk

AI and Racial and Ethnic Inequalities

Email: aihi@ccfnihr.atlassian.net