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Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund Digital Innovation Hub Sprint Exemplar Innovation Projects

Please note this opportunity is now CLOSED.
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Specification of Sprint Exemplar Innovation Projects

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Health Data Research UK is leading the delivery of the Digital Innovation Hub Programme – a UK-wide initiative to enable the safe and responsible use of health-related data at scale for research and innovation.

Between three to five Digital Innovation Hubs will be created in regions across the UK to connect health-related data for research and innovation, within a single interoperable, trusted and secure governance framework. This will enable accredited researchers, scientists and innovators to work together, and safely and securely use NHS and other health-related data to harness scientific knowledge and emerging technologies, across populations of between three to five million people.

The long-term ambition is to build towards full UK population coverage (65 million people), to rapidly enable researchers and innovators to engage with a meaningful dataset.

This four-year programme (September 2018 to July 2022) is funded by the UK Research and Innovation’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF), receiving £37.5 million. It is an element of the ISCF’s Data to Early Diagnosis and Precision Medicine challenge, placing early diagnosis and best treatments for particular patients at the heart of a national approach to better health. This builds on many recent healthcare technological advances, including in digital health and genomics, and on broader developments in data science and artificial intelligence.

The Digital Innovation Hub Programme will be delivered in three phases, with phase 2 ‘Sprint Exemplar Innovation Projects’ the subject of this call.

For further information, including the vision, expected outputs and core functions of the Digital Innovation Hub Programme, visit Health Data Research UK: Digital Innovation Hubs.

Timeframe of the Digital Innovation Hub Programme

The Digital Innovation Hub Programme has three phases, as below, with phase 2 the subject of this call:  

Phase 1: Initial design and dialogue phase

September 2018 - April 2019

Health Data Research UK is working in partnership with a wide range of organisations and individuals to develop a draft prospectus that will define the specification for the architecture; data and technical standards; and public engagement and governance frameworks required to build a UK-wide health research data platform. 

Phase 2: Sprint exemplar innovation projects

September 2018 - December 2019

Phase 2 is the subject of this call. The purpose is to establish “confidence in concept” of the Digital Innovation Hub Programme technology solutions, and proof of readiness for industry innovation use cases.

Health Data Research UK aims to support the delivery of a total of six to eight industry relevant Sprint Exemplar Innovation Projects.  Individual projects will be delivered by academic, NHS and industry consortia. Funding will be in the order of £100,000-£400,000 and approximately six to 10 months in duration for each successful project, although this will be dictated by the needs of each project.

Phase 3: Delivery and implementation

May 2019 - June 2022

Health Data Research UK will sponsor an initial three to five Digital Innovation Hubs as part of the national programme. The Hubs will demonstrate complementary research and innovation use cases, industry partnerships and clear benefits to the health and social care system, within a single interoperable, trusted and secure governance framework.

Purpose of this call

Digital Innovation Hub Sprint Exemplar Innovation Projects aim to build upon best practice to identify and develop the processes, technical solutions, knowledge and skills needed to deliver robust, secure and scalable solutions that will benefit the Digital Innovation Hub Programme.

To achieve this, Health Data Research UK is seeking to sponsor between six to eight Sprint Exemplar Innovation Projects to inform the full Digital Innovation Hub Programme design and specification. These will demonstrate confidence of concept of both the functions of an interoperable infrastructure and research and innovation relevant use cases.

Individual projects will be delivered by academic, NHS and industry consortia. The successful projects will receive between £100,000-£400,000 funding and will be approximately six to 10 months in duration, although this will be dictated by the needs of each project.

Receipt of funding for a Sprint Exemplar Innovation Project will not be a requirement of future involvement in the Digital Innovation Hub delivery programme. The Sprint Exemplar Innovation Project competition is not restricted to current Health Data Research UK sites.

The selection of sprint exemplars will be via an open competition, with an independent expert panel administered in partnership between Health Data Research UK and the MRC on behalf of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) ISCF programme.

Applications are sought from partnerships including industry, NHS health and care systems and academia from across the UK. The lead applicant must be from NHS or academia, rather than industry. Each Sprint Exemplar Innovation Project must have close working partnerships with their regional NHS organisations, as well as advanced health data science capabilities and clinical knowhow needed to deliver novel and scalable sprint projects.


Each Sprint Exemplar Innovation Project should:

  • support interactions between research and innovation in industry, health services and academic research
  • have written agreement of data controllers and ethical/governance approval prior to project initiation
  • have a pragmatic approach to intellectual property. We seek an ‘open’ model so that the results of the sprint exemplars can be published and shared. See principles within the Sprint Exemplar Innovation Projects Guidance for Applicants
  • demonstrate utility of the anticipated infrastructure function and carry out at least one significant 'use case' exemplar to demonstrate the clinical and economic utility of the project, aligned to one of the intended functions of the Digital Innovation Hub Programme, as defined on the Health Data Research UK website
  • demonstrate active 'user centred design' – with clear evidence of user demand and support for the capabilities developed by the proposed Sprint Exemplar Innovation Project
  • build on existing UK infrastructure, expertise and relationships across NHS, academic and industry
  • work with other successful centres and relevant infrastructure, including the UKRI initiatives such as the Centres of Excellence for Digital Pathology and Imaging, Health Data Research UK, Local Health and Care Record Exemplars (LHCREs) or NIHR investments, equivalent infrastructures and investments in the devolved nations to address future data sharing, standardisation, interoperability and scale-up.

Areas of interest

Specific areas of interest for Digital Innovation Hub Sprint Exemplar Innovation Projects are:

  • demonstration of 'production grade' federated data access and interoperability between different existing platforms
  • demonstration of an ontology mapping service – the ability to interpret data and codify it for analysis using existing methods or new tools including natural language processing
  • demonstration of the utility of advanced data storage and analytical environments capable of managing large numbers of multi-dimensional data. These should be made available securely, for artificial intelligence purposes and other forms of research at scale
  • demonstration of data presentation/visualisation tools – the ability to filter, search for and present legacy data via a suitable browser-independent web-based front end in order that users can view it independently
  • demonstration of technologies that support the highest standards of:
    • data discoverability
    • data security
    • anonymisation
    • governance workflow for approvals and data controller support
    • guaranteed privacy (such as automated statistical disclosure control) and the ability to remove datasets, individual records or other data according to automated or semi-automated rules in order to comply with data protection and personal data laws
    • transparency tools for dissemination of Digital Innovation Hub activity to the public  
  • demonstration of the ability to collect external device data - the ability to feed in data from patient-held or patient-worn devices used outside the hospital environment ('the internet of things').

Your application should outline how your project will embody the above properties  in a way that prevents the creation of silos, uses open APIs, enables interoperability and has the potential to productively share data across hubs

How to apply

For further information on how to apply for a Digital Innovation Hub Sprint Exemplar Innovation Project please read the associated Guidance for Applicants.

Further information

For further information about the Digital Innovation Hub Programme please visit the Health Data Research UK website or email enquiries@hdruk.ac.uk

For questions regarding scope and remit of the Sprint Exemplar Innovation Projects, please email enquiries@hdruk.ac.uk or call 0203 371 1393.

For questions regarding the application process, please contact: informatics@mrc.ukri.org or Paul.Colville-Nash@mrc.ukri.org

Health Data Research UK is hosting two webinars to give an opportunity to discuss the Digital Innovation Hub Sprint Exemplar Innovation Projects. These are scheduled for 10 October 2018, 11:30-12:30 and 15 November 2018, 10:30-11:30. To sign up, visit Health Data Research UK: events and opportunities.