A new rural centre of excellence for digital health and care has been launched jointly by UK and Scottish Government ministers.

The Moray Rural Centre of Excellence for Digital Health and Care Innovation will enable clinicians to come together and co-design a range of services for modern health and wellbeing needs.

The £5 million project, a UK Government investment, aims to support the remobilisation of health and care services and the economic recovery of the Moray region through investment in research and innovation activities aligned to the digital health and care agenda. It is the first Moray Growth Deal project to commence. 

Iain Stewart MP, parliamentary under secretary of state for Scotland and Richard Lochhead MSP, attended the launch which took place at The Glasgow School of Art’s Highlands and Islands campus. 

On the visit Mr Stewart and Mr Lochhead were able to see first-hand some of world-leading research in the key area of digital health and learn more about future innovations particularly in the area of co-design, which are being made possible through major investment from the Moray Growth Deal. Among the projects that were showcased were SCOTCAP a video capsule endoscopy developed to replace or complement existing colonoscopy services. 

The Digital Health & Care Innovation Centre, a world-leading collaboration between The Glasgow School of Art and the University of Strathclyde, will be spearheading the development and delivery of the projects alongside key strategic partners. 

The Moray Rural Centre of Excellence for Digital Health and Care Innovation will house a state-of-the-art, demonstration and simulation environment (DSE) and an enabling cloud infrastructure. There will also be a spread of five co-designed “Living Lab” testbeds across the Moray region. 

The Living Labs, which will be open to all, will focus on thematic areas including ‘co-managed health and wellbeing, care in place, mental health, and smart housing and communities, reflecting the priorities identified through stakeholder engagement.’

All research and development will be co-designed ensuring that the end-user has a vital voice in the development of the products and services. The person-centred needs at the heart of programmed activity will deliver real-world evidence that will enable the innovations to be embedded in local services, potentially scaled to other parts of Scotland, the rest of the UK and globally. 

The specialist innovation skills offered will help support Moray to create a dynamic and creative digital health and care cluster, enhancing recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and secure the provision of sustainable public services whilst creating inclusive growth through the creation of new jobs, development of future skills and equitable access, whilst also contributing to the net zero ambitions of Scotland and the UK. 

Iain Stewart, UK Government minister for Scotland, said: “Digital innovation in healthcare has huge potential for improving the quality, accuracy, timeliness and cost of diagnosis and treatments in our NHS. 

“This will have a particularly positive impact for Moray’s communities, who will benefit greatly from advancements in remote medicine. 

“The UK Government is investing £5m in this exciting initiative that will put the region at the forefront of new technologies and practices and is part of the £2bn we are putting into projects levelling up across Scotland.”  

Richard Lochhead, MSP, said: “This is an exciting development that will boost Moray’s profile as a centre of digital healthcare and innovation with some of Scotland’s leading institutions coming together to make it happen. For many years Moray has been spoken about as an ideal location for testing digital healthcare innovation given that we have all sizes of populations as well as being largely rural at the same time. I hope that local residents are amongst the first to benefit from such innovations.” 

Professor George Crooks OBE, chief executive, Digital Health & Care Innovation Centre, said: “The development of a Rural Centre of Excellence will not only become a catalyst for innovation and the development and delivery of next generation digital health and care products and services, that will benefit the people of Moray but will ensure they will also be made available both nationally and internationally.

“Our aim is to establish Moray as a key part of the international digital health and care ecosystem, creating a supportive environment for Scottish and UK businesses to start up and or grow as well as become a focus for inward investment. DHI through its international networks has already stimulated significant interest in this initiative and will be seeking to consolidate emerging opportunities over the coming weeks and months.” 

The multi-million-pound investment of the Moray Growth Deal – a contribution of £32.5 million each from the UK and Scottish Governments is set to be bolstered with further funding from regional partners, contributing to Moray’s economic growth.