New Science Minister Sam Gyimah has announced £70m of funding to create new manufacturing centres to help speed up the development of new medicines.

The money forms part of the government’s commitment to build a country fit for the future through a stronger economy and fairer society.

It will create innovative new medical solutions, including using virtual reality to aid rehabilitation and investing in digital speech therapy solutions for stroke and brain injuries.

The government’s investment in high-tech medical research aims to boost jobs, enhance the NHS and ensure better care for people when they are unwell.

During his visit to Imperial College London, the minister is expected to see how new, innovative technology is being developed to help patients.

He will be shown a cartoon-like robot which can improve learning and emotional understanding in children with autism. Because of their programming, robots are precise in displaying the same facial expressions and gestures in every interaction.

Researchers believe this consistency may be the key to helping young children with autism to learn the different facial expressions and gestures people use to display their emotions.

The minister is also likely to see some AI facial-recognition research which could be used to help elderly people by detecting the onset of depression, or in security systems to recognise visitors to dementia sufferers’ homes as doctors, nurses or relatives.

The Infrastructure Roadmap

As part of a day of Industrial Strategy activity, Sam Gyimah will also speak at the Royal Society where he will announce the start of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Research and Innovation Infrastructure Roadmap Programme.

The programme will comprehensively map UK research and innovation infrastructure, showcasing our abilities whilst identifying any gaps in infrastructure that we can address to boost the sector.

The Infrastructure Roadmap will be the first major piece of work that UKRI will undertake, and is expected to be finished in 2019 and will feature:

  • Large scientific facilities and major equipment
  • Collections, archives and scientific data
  • E-infrastructures such as data and computing systems
  • Communications networks

Healthcare Challenge

Through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF), the government is investing £181m through the Leading-Edge Healthcare and the Digital Health Technology Catalyst over four years in the areas of advanced therapies, medicines and vaccines development and manufacturing, alongside an estimated £250m of private funding from industry.

The fund should return a value of £1bn to the UK economy, support high-value, highly-skilled manufacturing, and increase productivity.

Nearly £50m of this funding has been allocated to further the manufacture of medicines, ensuring that the right drugs and treatments reach patients.

The funding for the ISCF Leading Edge Healthcare Challenge allocation comprises:

  • £21m for Advanced Therapies Treatment Centres
  • £15m for Medicines Manufacturing collaborative research and development Round One competition
  • £8m for Digital Health Catalyst Round One
  • £5.6m for Viral vector production for Cell and Gene Therapy
  • £8m for Digital Health Technology Catalyst round 2 – funding competition opens 15 February 2018
  • £10m for the Medicines Manufacturing challenge Round Two – funding opens 12 March 2018