Funding has been announced for the next phase of a multimillion-pound project that aims to increase the use of digital technologies in health and social care.
The £4 million, three-year extension of eHealth Productivity and Innovation in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (EPIC) means experts can continue to support businesses in developing technology to address the challenges faced by communities and providers in coastal and rural settings.
The project, led by the University of Plymouth through its Centre for Health Technology, will also work to help patients, professionals and care commissioners become accustomed to new technology to encourage its adoption.
The aim is to create a sustainable ‘eHealth’ sector in the region that will continue to flourish long after the project is complete, developing, testing and manufacturing digital health products in Cornwall and the South West to be exported nationally and globally.
The latest award of £3.3 million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) follows £2.7 million granted for the original EPIC in 2017. The second phase will make £600,000 available to businesses through a Challenge Fund, in addition to the £600,000 given out via the first EPIC Challenge Fund, which awarded 42 grants to businesses in the county.
EPIC will also set up ‘the EPICentre’ at the Health and Wellbeing Innovation Centre in Truro. The centre will showcase local eHealth products and services, and be somewhere companies, health and care professionals and others can come to view and work together on the design of new ones.
Adding a national and international dimension to EPIC’s existing work, under the second phase businesses and patients will benefit from the Centre for Health Technology’s links with established and developing eHealth sectors in countries across Europe and beyond, including Finland - whose eHealth implementation is seen as the gold standard - and Spain. International collaboration and sharing of best practice will support the development of high quality digital health products and services, and open up Cornwall as a ‘test bed’ for new products and services from around the world.
The new funding will also allow EPIC to help develop the embryonic care robotics sector in the region, encourage innovative ways of using the ‘internet of things’, and address the difficulties in delivering health and social care in rural areas through technology like low-power wide-area networks (LPWANs).
Professor Ray Jones and Associate Professor Arunangsu Chatterjee are leading the project at the University.