A National Effort
In order for the nation to build a strong neurotechnology industry, there needs to be a coordinated effort among the key players in government, academia, industry, the military, and the investment community, all working together toward a common goal. Such an effort has been underway for the last several years—not in the U.S., but in the U.K.
In 2018, the Royal Society assembled a working group of neurotech professionals from academia and industry to help them identify key themes in neural interface technologies. The event helped shape the Society’s recommendations and led to the publication of a public engagement report with recommendations for building a vibrant neurotechnology industry and also a public guidebook called iHuman.
The Royal Society proposed that the U.K. use neural interface technology as a test case for “an ambitious, democratized, and anticipatory approach to promoting emerging technologies.” They recommended the formation of a “Neural Interface Ecosystem” to encourage multidisciplinary collaboration. They suggested the government devise regulatory “sandboxes” to fine-tune the approval process for neural interfaces.
Earlier this month, the research firm KTN published a report that seeks to show the path towards building the neurotech industry in the U.K. The report identifies breakthrough technologies that can alleviate pain and symptoms of patients with brain injury, stroke, chronic disease, Parkinson’s, and depression and it also highlights non-medical application opportunities from the gaming sector to education and the military. The report was co-authored by Charlie Winkworth-Smith, who leads the Neurotechnology Innovation Network at KTN, Tim Denison from the University of Oxford, and Keith Mathieson from the University of Strathclyde. Denison, a former Medtronic neuromodulation executive, was instrumental in the efforts of the Royal Society’s neural interface working group.
The report calls for a multi-million pound investment to create a coherent national strategy with robust regulatory and ethical frameworks. To generate a pipeline of new technologies to become market-ready, investment is needed in basic research, and support towards commercialization, while ensuring there are sufficient people being trained in a multidisciplinary way. One of the report’s proposals is the formation of a neurotechnology accelerator, which will become an essential test bed for device developers and provide key infrastructure to industry—a crucial stepping stone in making the U.K. internationally competitive in this area.
Particularly in light of the U.K.’s withdrawal from the EU, proposals like these may help that nation take its place next to the U.S. as a major nexus of neurotechnology.
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