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£12 million of Government Funding to Drive Drone Innovation

Science Minister, George Freeman has announced today that 24 innovative projects including drone innovation, are to be awarded £12 million to help businesses bring their products to the market. In a move that will remove frustrating regulatory barriers from innovation, the UK will be in a solid position to become one of the most innovative countries on the planet.

Some of the projects that have been awarded funding include one that will have drones carrying and delivering key medical supplies to remote areas and one that will use artificial intelligence to improve health outcomes for patients. Each project also feeds into key UK sectors, such as net-zero and healthcare.

If all 24 projects are successful, then low-carbon technologies could be seen being used in everyday life, more tailored treatments for individual patients in the NHS and drones flying around UK airspace to rapidly deliver medicines.

A huge opportunity to be a global leader

The Minister of State for Science, Research and Innovation, George Freeman, believes that this new funding will help make the United Kingdom a global powerhouse in testing innovative technologies and raising the bar in advancements. He said:

“The pace of new technology – from AI in healthcare to drone delivery to nutraceuticals – Is creating a huge opportunity for the UK to be a global leader in testing new technologies and setting appropriate regulatory standards, which are key to investor and customer confidence.

“That’s why our Innovation Strategy and Taskforce on Innovation Growth & Regulatory Reform (TIGRR) reforms are key to making the UK a global testbed and innovative regulator.

“Today’s funding will support 24 pioneering testbeds to experiment and innovate, while helping our brightest businesses in bringing game-changing products and services to market.”

Continuing to introduce drones to UK airspace

We are entering a world where both drones and aircraft are going to co-exist in the same air space.

Just last month, Skyfarer Ltd and Medical Logistics UK announced a collaborative project that will involve drones delivering medical supplies across Coventry and Rugby. The 32km of air space, now known as the Medical Logistics UK corridor, has been active for the past month and will continue to be until the end of December.

Now, as part of this new funding, a similar project has been given the green light in Scotland. £250,000 has been given to Argyll and Bute Council to work with Skyports and Air Navigation Solutions Limited to test and integrate drones over the west coast of Scotland. Like the Skyfarer Ltd and Medical Logistics UK project, these drones will be used to deliver medicines.

Drone innovation Medical Logistics and Skyfarer
Medical Logistics UK and Skyfarer Ltd announced a collaborative project that will involve drones delivering medical supplies at Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust

Following up on the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement

As part of his statement in November, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced that he was tasking the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Valance to figure out how the UK could better regulate emerging technologies and get around the barriers that typically prevent these technologies from being introduced the public domain quicker.

While this announcement of funding shows that the Government are serious about improving its efforts in this sector, the independent Regulatory Horizons Council has responded by publishing two reports on the regulation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a Medical Device and neurotechnology.

These reports are not there to deter the Government, but to offer them advice on how they can safely introduce technological innovation in AI in a rapid fashion and therefore should be welcomed.

With an eye on potential future innovations, the Regulatory Horizons Council is also set to conduct a review on quantum technologies. This emerging technology is expected to be worth around $100 billion within the next 20-30 years and the UK is trying to get ahead of the game.

Final thought

It is fantastic to see the United Kingdom actively encouraging businesses to incorporate modern and evolving technologies into their projects. It is also worth noting that while public opinion on Brexit has been on a downward spiral recently, the Government’s ability to issue this funding would not be possible if the United Kingdom was still part of the EU due to restrictions on regulatory frameworks.

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