An accelerator programme has been launched to help startups harness the power of next generation mobile connectivity – 5G – to make their digital solutions to challenges faced by the healthcare sector market-ready.

The ‘shaping digital health & social care’ innovation challenge from The Scotland 5G Centre and its S5GConnect Dumfries hub will support three projects to improve healthcare delivery.

Tech entrepreneurs and small firms from across the UK are being invited to respond to real-world problems and bring their products or services, enabled by 5G, to meet patient and care provider needs “accurately, efficiently, conveniently, cost effectively and at scale”.

The new programme is supported by Dumfries and Galloway Health and Social Care Partnership and independent body Scottish Care. They have identified the challenges they want to address, to ensure that solutions align with the market’s needs.

Companies entering are required to highlight a solution that addresses one of the following challenges:

  • Enhance and develop digital access to health and care services across the region, particularly in rural areas. 
  • Digital ideas to help support people to manage their own conditions and care for themselves safely at home. 
  • Connectivity solutions that enable information to be shared with people and others involved in patients’ care safely and efficiently.

Spearheaded by S5GConnect, the Scotland 5G Centre’s series of 5G test beds and innovation hubs across Scotland, the challenge will provide access to a “cutting-edge” private 5G network in Dumfries, with expertise and advice to drive development within a 5G environment.   

The winning companies will get access to the challenge owners’ expertise and insider knowledge throughout the accelerator programme, with support also committed post programme to bring the solution closer to market integration. 

Lara Moloney, head of S5GConnect, said: “Private 5G networks offer organisations a new way to deliver services, this innovation challenge focuses on how we can support independent living and care to ease the burden on the NHS and Care Providers.

“Collectively we are offering a real opportunity to businesses who can solve these difficult problems and that can be enhanced through advanced connectivity. This intensive programme will allow the acceleration of a business concept into a product that has the potential to transform how we care for people and change lives for the better.  

“This is an ideal opportunity for businesses to access expert support to fine-tune their concept and assess it in a real environment. This will in turn lead to scaling up and commercialisation to create new skills and jobs and will make a positive and real difference to the economy.”

CGI, an additional challenge partner, will also be bringing its “go-to-market” and scaling expertise throughout the programme. CGI’s support will continue with network introductions and a potential showcase at the CGI Innovation Centre’s 5G lab in London.

Technical support will be delivered by technology solutions provider AWTG virtually and through direct one-to-one sessions at the testbed. 

David Rowland, director of strategic planning and transformation, Dumfries and Galloway Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “We launched a comprehensive Sustainability and Modernisation Programme to address the growing pressures on local services. We recognise that adopting new and emergent digital solutions is critical to our success as it can help us provide our services efficiently and effectively. 

“This Innovation Challenge offers a fantastic opportunity for our partnership to forge the new alliances necessary to explore innovative and creative solutions to some of our key challenges.”  

Nicola Cooper, technology and digital innovation lead, Scottish Care, added: “This is a terrific opportunity to do something of real value for people who access, or work in health and social care through delivering new solutions enabled by advanced connectivity at a time when we need it most.

“We want to work with innovators seeking real world applications for their solutions in health and social care. We will help match them with care providers, to shape and evaluate their ideas as part of the accelerator process.”  

The ‘call’ is open to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) across Scotland and the UK who currently have a healthcare product or service in development or already on the market, but that requires additional digital capacity to meet a need or improve performance.

Entrants also need to show they are committed to the programme and can ensure team members can attend the required sessions.

There is a £1,000 travel and subsistence budget available to each winning company to support these costs.

The S5GConnect innovation programme offers a comprehensive package of support for the successful companies. This includes: a 15-week development programme; access to the 5G testbed in Dumfries with one-to-one technical expertise to support technical development. In addition, companies will receive business and investment advice and introduction to potential customers and ongoing access to S5GConnect business and technical support until March 2023. The post challenge opportunities through the network of challenge owners and partners will add real value to a company.

The programme will be delivered in person and remotely. The live test bed used will be at the S5GConnect innovation hub, at the Crichton Centre in Dumfries.

Details of the innovation challenge, including a link to the Expression of Interest form and Q&A event are available here.