This week the government has opened a competition to invest up to £50 million in a network of up to six Centres of Excellence in digital pathology and imaging, including radiology.

The centres, using digital systems and artificial intelligence (AI), will help diagnose deadly diseases earlier and select the best therapies for patients through precision treatments. Organisations from the NHS, academia and industry can join forces to apply for a share of the fund.

Successful centres will work with companies, particularly SMEs, to use digital systems and tools to improve diagnosis and deliver precision medicine to transform outcomes for patients. Investing in large-scale genomics, coupled with image analysis emerging from these digital pathology and radiology centres and with existing health data, will drive new understanding of how complex diseases, such as cancer, develop. New tools will then be developed to diagnose diseases at early stages and to guide development of new treatments effective for that type of disease. This type of precision medicine will ensure that the right patient gets the right treatment at the right time – saving lives and revolutionising healthcare.

The competition is a major element of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund’s Data to Early Diagnosis and Precision Medicine challenge, placing early diagnosis and the selection of the best treatment for a patient at the heart of a national approach to better health.

To rapidly deliver benefits both at scale and right across the UK, the successful centres will work collaboratively and engage with the associated Digital Innovation Hub programme – controlled environments that will support the analysis of clinical, genomic, biological and other health-related data for research purposes. Up to five Digital Innovation Hubs will be created, led by Health Data Research UK. The aim is to safely and securely use data to improve the way we are able to prevent, detect and diagnose diseases such as cancer, heart disease and asthma.

Professor Andrew Morris, Director of Health Data Research UK, commented:

“This funding provides the UK with an opportunity to harness the tremendous expertise we have in digital pathology and radiology across the NHS, our universities and industry to help transform the way we understand and treat disease. The opportunities for the application of artificial intelligence to radiology and pathology data are endless.

We will work in partnership with the successful Centres, by supporting their integration into the future Digital Innovation Hubs. This will ensure that best practice is widely shared and in a secure and trustworthy way to power research and innovation at scale. Our aim is to enable as many patients as possible to benefit from scientific breakthroughs much faster.”

For further information about this competition, please visit the government website here: