SBRI Healthcare awards £1 million to pioneering innovations to support the delivery of a net zero NHS

SBRI Healthcare has awarded a total of £1 million to ten pioneering MedTech and Digital innovations to support the delivery of a Net Zero NHS. The new projects are funded through a nationwide call by SBRI Healthcare, in partnership with the Greener NHS Programme, and which attracted 46 applications from a range of organisations, including small businesses, technology start-ups and NHS Trusts.

Climate change is a major and growing threat to global health, impacting on both the provision of services and the resilience of healthcare systems. In the UK, air pollution accounts for 1 in 20 deaths with harmful emissions causing increased cases of asthma, cancer and heart disease. In October 2020 the Greener NHS Programme set the target of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2040, in response to this reality, making the NHS the first health service in the world to make such a commitment. Innovations across all NHS operations will play a critical role in helping to achieve this goal, whilst maintaining and improving standards of care.

Competition 18 ‘Delivering a Net Zero NHS’ was launched as a development funding competition to help respond to this challenge. Specifically, innovations were called to address the following challenges (i) reducing emissions from care miles, (ii) reducing emissions from surgical pathways, (iii) reducing nitrous oxide emissions and (iv) tools to support low-carbon decision making.

The competition, developed in partnership with the Greener NHS Programme, AHSN Network and Accelerated Access Collaborative, asked for innovations which could demonstrate their impact on carbon emissions whilst considering the systematic complexity, supply chain and product lifecycles involved in their implementation. These solutions also needed to demonstrate how they will maintain and improve the overall delivery of healthcare and health outcomes within the NHS.

The newly funded projects aim to bring benefits to patients and care service users, whilst reducing carbon emissions. Innovations include tools to engage with patients and clinicians, supporting clinical decision making; managing the delivery or capture of anaesthetic gases in clinical environments; providing digital solutions and telehealth, supporting patients at home and improving clinical pathways; considering the circular economy for surgical textiles, among others.

Dr Glenn Wells, former Director of Strategy & Planning at UKRI Medical Research Council, now Chief Partnerships Officer at the MHRA and chair of the SBRI Panel said: ‘Delivering a Net Zero NHS is a key ambition to tackle within the Healthcare system and it was great to see so many diverse innovations applying to the SBRI Healthcare programme to make an impact on the carbon emissions and align themselves to the NHS ambitions and more generally, commit to sustainable changes. We’ve seen some innovative digital tools that will ultimately drive reduction in care miles or that can be used as educational materials to enable greener decision making. We look forward to seeing how the SBRI Healthcare funding can support the Net Zero targets and enable the development and assessment of promising solutions.”.

Dr Nick Watts, Chief Sustainability Officer, NHS England and NHS Improvement said: “It’s fantastic to see the wide range of organisations engaged with the first net zero focused SBRI Healthcare competition. Innovation is key to developing new tools and technologies to deliver a net zero NHS and investment will encourage action, reduce the costs of decarbonisation across the sector and improve health and care now and for generations to come”.

The projects will run up to six months, with the aim to demonstrate whether innovations are technically feasible and have an impact on carbon reductions. Innovations that can prove their impact and potential will be available to seek further funding for prototype development and evaluation. The long-term aim is for successful technologies to be adopted for use in the NHS where they can provide benefits for patients, the NHS and the overall community, whilst enabling the NHS to reach its Net Zero ambition.

Matt Whitty, Director at NHS England and NHS Improvement & CEO of the Accelerated Access Collaborative said: “The SBRI Healthcare awards supports the NHS to develop technologies and solutions to address some of the biggest healthcare challenges facing society. The fantastic range of solutions to reduce carbon emissions being announced today is a great example of the game changing potential of  innovation. By supporting the most promising innovations the NHS will continue to evolve, helping  meet more patients needs and encouraging more innovators to  come forward with ideas that make a difference”.

View the full list of competition winners and allocated funding on the SBRI website.