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Business Secretary Greg Clark has announced five new centres of excellence for digital pathology and imaging in England, which will use advances in medical artificial intelligence to diagnose diseases at an earlier stage.

Based in Leeds, Oxford, Coventry, Glasgow and London, but each with partners spanning the UK, the centres will develop more intelligent analysis of medical imaging, leading to better clinical decisions for patients, and freeing more staff time for direct patient care in the NHS.

“AI has the potential to revolutionise healthcare and improve lives for the better. That’s why our modern Industrial Strategy puts pioneering technologies at the heart of our plans to build a Britain fit for the future,” said Clark.

“The innovation at these new centres will help diagnose disease earlier to give people more options when it comes to their treatment, and make reporting more efficient, freeing up time for our much-admired NHS staff time to spend on direct patient care.”

The centres will be funded with a £50 million grant from the government’s investment programme the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, which is managed by UK Research and Innovation.

The centres are:

  • London Medical Imaging and Artificial Intelligence Centre for Value-Based Healthcare, which will use AI in medical imaging and related clinical data for faster and earlier diagnosis and automating expensive and time-consuming manual reporting;
  • Glasgow’s I-CAIRD (Industrial Centre for AI Research in Digital Diagnostics), which will bring together clinicians, health planners, and industry to work with innovative SMEs to answer clinical questions, and solve healthcare challenges more quickly and efficiently;
  • NCIMI (National Consortium of Intelligent Medical Imaging) in Oxford will consider the role clinical imaging plays in the delivery of more personalised care and earlier diagnosis to support disease prevention and treatment;
  • Based in Coventry, the Pathology image data Lake for Analytics, Knowledge and Education (PathLAKE) will use NHS pathology data to drive economic growth in health-related AI; and
  • The Northern Pathology Imaging Collaborative (NPIC) located in Leeds will create a world-leading centre linking up nine industry partners, eight universities and nine NHS trusts, which will work on faster diagnosis through use of AI and also develop more integrated ways of working across regional clinical pathology services.

“We are delighted to be a partner in this pioneering project that will introduce digital pathology and AI to a large network across the North of England covering a population of approximately 15 million people,” said Geoff Twist, managing director for Roche Diagnostics Ltd, a partner of the NPIC.

“This is a true collaboration with partners from across healthcare delivery and industry, coming together with a common goal to improve diagnostic capabilities to offer cancer patients the best care possible. The ultimate aim is to develop an exemplar model that can be replicated across the UK for the benefit of cancer patients.

“Adopting cutting edge digital technology will drive continued improvement in our ability to diagnose disease quicker, more accurately and to pinpoint specific biomarkers enabling the right patients to receive the right treatment at the right time.”

The centres, which will be housed at universities and NHS facilities across the country, are expected to be operational next year.

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