This site has been optimized to work with modern browsers and does not fully support your version of Internet Explorer.

Partnership with NCIMI improves patient outcomes and generates economic growth


The Oxford AHSN’s five-year partnership with the National Consortium of Intelligent Medical Imaging (NCIMI), hosted by the University of Oxford, has enabled experts from the NHS, academia and industry to leverage the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to improve health and care outcomes and benefit patients across the UK.

With the support of the Oxford AHSN commercial team and industry partners, the NCIMI bid was successfully funded by Innovate UK in 2019 through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) award ‘Wave 2: Data to Early Diagnosis and Precision Medicine’. The award supported the UK’s AI sector by sharing its knowledge and findings through a national, connected network of hospitals supporting AI research and data sharing for innovative projects within the NHS, academia and industry.

In addition to the Oxford AHSN, NCIMI industry partners include GE Healthcare and Alliance Medical. Charity partners include the British Heart Foundation and National Cancer Research Institute. See full list of consortium partners. Our local NHS partners in NCIMI are Buckinghamshire Healthcare, Oxford University Hospitals and the Royal Berkshire.

Over the five-year partnership, supported by £10 million from the ISCF, £5 million from industry partners and further funding of approximately £5 million from the AI in Health and Care Award, NCIMI has helped accelerate the development, validation and adoption of the most promising AI technologies in the NHS.

NCIMI has supported the development of a connected network of NHS trusts providing data to support AI development and evaluation. NCIMI has invested in developing expertise, capacity and capability to ensure that data is high quality, consistent, annotated and curated as needed. Sixteen exemplar projects are delivering against current areas of unmet need. See all NCIMI projects.

Involvement in NCIMI has enabled the Oxford AHSN to form long-lasting relationships with industry, charity and NHS partners to bring innovative AI technologies in areas of unmet need to benefit patients and service providers.

What has been achieved?

In addition to the original £15 million funding leveraged to set up NCIMI, more than £10 million of further funding has been generated through additional grant awards, including the NHS/National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) AI in Health and Care Awards.

One of the primary goals of NCIMI was to bring together a unique network of general hospitals into large-scale clinical studies, an area which tends to be dominated by large teaching hospitals. The Royal Berkshire, Royal United Hospitals Bath and Royal Cornwall Hospitals have benefitted significantly in expanding their research capabilities through the partnership with NCIMI. NCIMI has also expanded the network into Scotland through its partnership with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

A major achievement of NCIMI is the creation of a network of 12 hospitals ready for deployment and evaluation of AI technology. In addition, our region will benefit from the establishment of  the Thames Valley Emergency Medicine Research Network (TaVERN) – a collaborative network of emergency department research teams providing a platform to expand and increase recruitment of participants into emergency medicine studies across five hospitals.

NCIMI partners have also come together to form an innovative collaboration between Alliance Medical, GE Healthcare, Perspectum and Oxford University Hospitals to deliver a new Community Diagnostic Centre (CDC) in Oxford. GPs can refer patients to the CDC instead of hospital for checks and diagnostics for a range of conditions closer to home.

NCIMI has successfully demonstrated that it can engage partners to deliver effective projects supporting AI development in healthcare with 136% overdelivery against the original target. Key figures include:

    • 67 NHS hospitals using e-Stroke suite
    • 6 million data sets received and stored
    • 12 new local data storage facilities established within the NHS partners
    • 12 engaged NHS trusts/boards participating, all meeting secure data transfer protocols
    • 4 new AI tools developed
    • 321 clinicians and researchers engaged

What did we do?

The Oxford AHSN’s commercial team initially supported the University of Oxford in its application for the ISCF award, working with Claire Bloomfield (now Deputy Director of the NHS England Centre for Improving Data Collaboration) and GE Healthcare to help pull together the NCIMI bid and the consortium partners. The AHSN also contributed £90,000 of in-kind funding required as part of the initial application. This was used to support these projects:

  • Predicting heart attacks by measuring inflammation
  • AI support of stroke imaging in the Thames Valley
  • Removing the need for surgery in endometriosis

The Oxford AHSN, Caristo Diagnostics, Ultromics and Brainomix have since benefitted from more than £5 million in funding from the AI in Health and Care Award to support the evaluation and adoption of innovative AI technologies in cardiovascular diseases.

The Oxford AHSN team continues to support NCIMI members in delivering a pipeline of collaborative projects through evaluation advice and grant applications to NIHR i4i Product Development awards and Innovate UK Biomedical Catalyst awards.

Involvement in NCIMI has enabled the Oxford AHSN to form long-lasting relationships with industry, charity and NHS partners to bring innovative AI technologies in areas of unmet need to benefit patients and service providers.

What people said

“UKRI’s investment in NCIMI has brought together a first in class network of NHS trusts focussed on supporting AI development and testing and helping make the UK an attractive place to undertake AI development. Some of our early projects are now showing impressive early read-outs which will mean that there are patients out there today who will live longer or benefit from improved healthcare delivery as a result of NCIMI.”

Dr Mark Beggs, Chief Operating Officer, NCIMI

“Our partnership with NCIMI has been an important element of our success over the past few years, enabling us to set-up the first regional stroke AI network back in early 2020 that then laid the groundwork for the NHSX AI grant that we received later that year. NCIMI’s unique composition of NHS hospitals, clinical leaders, industry experts, world-leading researchers and patient groups, all working towards a common goal of driving innovation, spearheaded so much of the progress we’ve seen in the UK AI sector.”

Dr Michalis Papadakis, CEO and Co-Founder of Brainomix

What next?

Further work is needed at a national level to address the major issue of data acquisition. There is an unmet need for a standard data contract and data protection impact assessment across all NHS trusts and a subsequent mandate from national commissioners ensuring a robust, time-limited, standardised process for overcoming data-sharing barriers. This will accelerate the delivery of NHS datasets to AI developers which is what this emerging industry needs. This will ultimately help the UK to attract and retain this important industry. The Oxford AHSN will continue to support the development and evaluation of AI technologies in our region.


Ashley Aitken, Senior Programme Manager, Strategic & Industry Partnerships