The Wellcome Trust and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) have announced the launch of a joint £30 million initiative to find biomedical engineering solutions to challenging healthcare problems.
The Innovative Engineering for Health partnership will provide funding for a limited number of long-term projects that address healthcare needs for which current solutions are inadequate.
Up to £10m over seven years is available for each project, reflecting the scale of ambition that the initiative seeks to support.
Uniquely, the initiative provides the resources and flexibility to both conduct high-quality basic research and enable its adoption into clinical or public health practice.
Engineering and the physical sciences have played a role in many of the most significant advances in healthcare in our time.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), fibre-optic surgical techniques, robotic prostheses and automated genetic sequencing are just some of the advances in healthcare that would not have been possible without technology from the physical sciences.
Applications are invited for projects that will address problems of the highest priority in healthcare or public health for which solutions are not obvious given the current state of technology.
For example, priority will be given to proposals that address such problems as developing technologies to tackle rare diseases, facilitating care for babies and infants that accommodates challenges posed by growth and development, and finding engineering approaches for mental health problems.
The new initiative builds on the success of a £45m capacity-building initiative from the two funders to support four multidisciplinary centres of excellence in medical engineering around the UK.
The Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, said: "Bringing together the UK's world-class biomedical and physical sciences researchers will be vital in developing the technology to solve our biggest healthcare challenges. This unique initiative supports both basic science and its translation, advancing knowledge and bringing benefits for patients."
Sir Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, said: "The research environment for biomedical engineering in the UK has benefited enormously from the collaboration between EPSRC and the Wellcome Trust, and we are delighted to announce this new initiative, bringing together multidisciplinary teams that will tackle some extremely important medical challenges."
The new scheme is open to global applications, and particularly encourages collaboration between the UK and the best international groups.
David Delpy, Chief Executive of the EPSRC, said: "This initiative builds upon our partnership with the Wellcome Trust which has been running since 2008. It provides a unique opportunity for researchers to take basic science and engineering right through to adoption into practice. It will support innovative thinking and bring together the best researchers in the world in the medical, engineering and physical sciences to devise solutions to healthcare challenges."