While gesturing toward a projected image, a medical technology developer discusses a new technology. She is holding a digital tablet

From sensor-enabled glasses that facilitate self-management for major depression to devices that measure muscle performance to improve a person’s gait, NICE has worked in partnership with Innovate UK and the University of Manchester to support 16 digital health technology (DHT) developers over the last three years as part of the Digital Health Technology Catalyst.

The Digital Health Technology Catalyst, managed by UK Research and Innovation, is a £35 million fund run as part of the Medicines Manufacturing Challenge. It was created to help grow the digital health sector and address challenges identified in the Accelerated Access Review. It has supported a portfolio of the UK’s most promising small businesses, working in over 20 therapy areas, to accelerate their product development and ultimately their route to market.

The NICE Scientific Advice team met each of the 16 funding bid winners to understand more about their technology and develop individual support packages that would demystify some of the challenges around evidence requirements and adoption within the NHS and help them optimise their overall development strategy.

One of the 16 companies, Emteq Labs, are developing a technology called Ocosense – a pair of sensor-enabled glasses that use muscle sensing and machine learning technology to measure physical and emotional responses to environment and stimuli. The data generated can be used to help self-management and personalised care across a range of conditions including major depression. NICE helped identify where the technology could sit within the care pathway for major depression. We also helped establish which tier of the NICE Evidence Standards Framework for Digital Health Technologies the technology would sit within to determine the evidence that would be needed for the glasses to be used by the NHS. Learnings in both of these areas helped the company in planning future studies as well as securing additional funding.

Whilst these engagements were primarily designed to support innovators, it allowed NICE to learn more about the unique challenges faced when developing digital health technologies, particularly those that include artificial intelligence or machine learning (a field that is rapidly evolving in regulation and evaluation). This helped us to enhance the advice we can provide through the META Tool and other services but also helped inform updates to the second edition of the NICE Evidence Standards Framework for Digital Health Technologies and some of the initial thinking for the Multi-Agency Advisory Service for AI and Data-driven Technologies (an on-going collaboration between NICE, MHRA, CQC and HRA). The learning also fed directly into the NICE Office for Digital Health which coordinates all NICE’s work in the field of digital health.

For NICE and the Scientific Advice team, the Digital Health Technology Catalyst and our work supporting companies through the AI in Health and Care Award are great examples of how we can work collaboratively with system partners. This helps us further our reach within an evolving market and continue to support innovators so that the health system can benefit from a wider range of high quality, value-adding technologies.

The success of the Digital Health Technology Catalyst partnership has also been recognised by UK Research and Innovation, with Chris Sawyer, the Innovation Lead for the Catalyst, agreeing that the contribution NICE and the University of Manchester have made to the overall success of the programme is highly valued.

If you are interested in learning more about the various services NICE provides for developers of DHTs and medtech more generally, please do get in touch.

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