Digital Health & Care Innovation Centre secures funding for the next 10 years

View of the TIC and Inovo buildings on the Strathclyde campus

Technology designed for patients to make informed choices is “the only way” to take Scotland’s medical model into the 21st century, according to the head of an innovation centre hosted at the University of Strathclyde.

The Digital Health & Care Innovation Centre (DHI) has secured new annual funding of £2million from the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) for at least the next 10 years.

The centre brings partners in the commercial, academic, health and social care and third sectors together, to drive innovation and transformation in Scottish health and social care. The funding will ensure the organisation will continue to make an impact domestically and internationally.

Since its inception in 2013, DHI has spearheaded major digital advances, including: accelerating Scotland’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic; the pioneering £5m Rural Centre of Excellence in Moray, and SCOTCAP, technology for use in outpatient gastroenterology.

The new funding has enabled DHI to set out priorities in its new 10-year plan, including:

  • transform health and social care
  • developing digital and data infrastructures as national assets
  • enhancing Scotland’s connected ecosystem through cross sectoral innovation clusters
  • developing a future skills pipeline which delivers workforce capabilities fit for Scotland’s future
  • extending commercial engagement to support economic growth
  • working on health and care’s contribution to net zero targets
  • enhancing Scotland’s international reputation in research and innovation.

Strathclyde hosts the centre, which is also backed by the Scottish Government, in collaboration with The Glasgow School of Art (GSA).

DHI’s Chief Executive Officer, Professor George Crooks OBE, said the focus of health and social care in Scotland must shift towards personal empowerment – where individuals have greater control over their health and care requirements through effective use of their data – made possible by advances in digital technology.

He said: “Growing waiting lists, ageing populations, difficulties recruiting staff, and a workforce that is still feeling the impact of pandemic and pressures of the health and care system are the realities in Scotland – but they are also global challenges not unique to this country. Demand is outstripping capacity and there has never been a greater urgency to do things differently.

“Scotland’s medical model of care, that has served us very well for the past 150 years, is no longer fit for purpose in the 21st century. We must move away from our existing approach to one where we listen to, activate, and empower our citizens to make better informed health and wellbeing choices supported by resources in their communities.

The only way that can happen is through the appropriate use of digital technologies allied to an understanding of the lived experience of people in Scotland, using our expertise to co-design with them, and tailoring services to meet their personal and local circumstances.

“In more than 40 years working in the NHS in Scotland, my experience is that the majority of investment in technology has always been to benefit the healthcare system or people working within it. The patients were only passive recipients of that, and this needs to change.

“It’s only in recent years, and as we look forward, that we have begun to invest in technology focused on the people of Scotland that will enable them to make better health and wellbeing choices. It will enable them to curate their own data and access appropriate services more easily and effectively and relieve the pressure on frontline services.”

Duncan Graham, Associate Principal and Executive Dean of Strathclyde’s Faculty of Science, said: “We’re delighted to continue hosting two of the innovation centres announced for funding in DHI and IBioIC (Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre).

“We look forward to supporting the positive impact for Scotland and beyond offered by both, with DHI spearheading the next generation of citizen-centred healthcare that is set to transform the lives of many.”

SFC Chief Executive Karen Watt said: “We are delighted to be continuing to support the Digital Health & Care Innovation Centre to help the people of Scotland live longer, healthier lives and provide sustainable and inclusive economic growth.”