The Government has committed to invest £140 million over the next three years to support the development of artificial intelligence services for the National Health Service.
Health Minister Matt Hancock said the money will be made available through the £250 million National AI Lab, created last August within NHSX, the body set up within the Department for Health and Social Care to oversee digitisation in healthcare.
Competitions will be run twice a year by the NHS Accelerated Access Collaborative.
The awards will cover all stages of AI, from proof of concept to initial adoption in the NHS, with the first call for proposals focusing on screening, diagnosis, clinical decision support and system efficiency.
Hancock said the AI Lab, which provides a forum for academics, specialists and technology companies to harness the technology for healthcare, will also have a unit to build and rapidly test prototypes.
He added: “The AI Lab is a crucial tool in NHSX’s armoury for putting the world’s best technology in the hands of NHS clinicians and managers, all so we can bring the NHS into the 21st century."
Hancock cited the development of a natural language processing tool named Cogstack by a team at King’s College Hospital. This can perform manual coding and data collection tasks in a tenth of the time needed by a human analyst, providing the potential for major savings and speeding up medical research.
He also pointed to University College London Hospital using AI to predict and prevent missed appointments, and the East Midlands Radiology Consortium trialling the technology in reading mammograms.
The National AI Lab is designed to provide a forum for academics, specialists and technology companies to harness the technology for healthcare.
The centre sits within NHSX and is operated with the Accelerated Access Collaborative, which brings together industry, the NHS, regulators and patient representatives to promote innovation in the sector.