Hampshire residents could soon be enjoying ‘space-age’ hospitals after the UK Space Agency and Hampshire hospitals announced they would be teaming up to develop ‘hospitals of the future’.

The UK Space Agency has made £5 million of funding available to give technologies originally developed for space exploration new medical applications. While devices such as Star Trek’s tricorder may be some way off, new diagnostic technologies, transplant-carrying drones and virtual rehabilitation are among the ideas to be explored.

Tony Mears, associate director of innovation for the Hampshire Together programme, said: “We are delighted to be working with the UK Space Agency as part of our programme. It opens up new opportunities for us in terms of innovation and technology and shows our commitment to incorporating new ideas into our plans for the future.

“The UK Space Agency has really helped the NHS to overcome the challenges posed by COVID-19 and we are excited to see how we can use this innovation-by-nature sector to help provide the best health and care services for people across Hampshire in the future.”

Space-derived technologies have played an important part in our lives for a number of years, with devices from wireless headsets to memory foam having originally been created to assist space travel.

This is also true of medical applications, with devices such as CAT scans and 3D X-Rays having been developed and improved as part of the drive to get humans into space. During the pandemic, the UK Space Agency has provided funding for projects including drones delivering covid tests and PPE.

Under these new plans, businesses are invited to submit their ideas for how space-based technologies can be put into a medical context. A panel of experts, including representatives from the UK Space Agency, Hampshire Together and the European Space Agency, will then assess the proposals.

The successful projects will then be incorporated in any new hospitals, such as that planned for North Hampshire, as well as the wider health system. Where appropriate, these ideas will also be used to improve services across the area before the construction of any new buildings.

Arnaud Runge, medical engineer at ESA’s European Space Research and Technology Centre, said: “In the past but also more recently throughout the COVID-19 crisis, the use of space technologies and satellite data has proven to be an essential driver for innovation in the healthcare sector to address existing and new challenges.

“We are delighted to extend our fruitful collaboration with the UK Space Agency and NHS in this exciting initiative and demonstrate how space can contribute today to shape the hospital of tomorrow.”

For more information on how to apply for the funding go to https://business.esa.int/funding/intended-tender/nhs-future-hospitals-initiative