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Press Release

MSD and Wayra UK searching for Artificial Intelligence (AI) and tech start-ups to re-imagine healthcare

Posted on: 05 Dec 17


•   Velocity Health programme building on two years of success accelerating digital start-ups in healthcare

•   Our 2018 challenge seeks start-ups using technology to help support disease and illness prevention, with a focus on utilising Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

•   We’re offering two start-ups up to £68K investment in funding and acceleration services


London, Monday 4th December: Merck Sharp & Dohme Ltd (MSD), a global healthcare company, and Wayra UK, the accelerator that is part of Telefónica Open Future_, are teaming up again to offer two start-ups up to £68K as part of the Velocity Health programme.


This will be the third year that MSD and Wayra have run Velocity Health, which aims to accelerate start-ups so that they can meet the healthcare challenges facing the NHS.


This year, the partners are seeking start-ups who can help with the following challenge:

-  how technology can help support disease and illness prevention, with a particular focus on start-ups utilising Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning.


Velocity Health was set up in 2015 to invest in digital innovation in healthcare to address the challenges outlined in the NHS Five Year Forward View1 and in line with the recommendations outlined in the Life Sciences Strategy2. Previous programmes focused on prevention in healthcare with an emphasis on diabetes prevention and cancer prevention.


Dr Junaid Bajwa, Director of Healthcare Services at MSD, said: “As a company, MSD is deeply committed to scientific discovery, working in partnership with the healthcare system and scaling innovation. Velocity Health 2018 aims to build on the achievements of the previous two years of Velocity Health and work with start-ups that truly complement the future of healthcare delivery. The NHS has made digital excellence the cornerstone of its future model and we must embrace this if we are to have a healthcare system fit for the 21st Century.”


Gary Stewart, Director of Wayra UK and Telefónica Open Future_ (UK), said: “Breakthroughs in artificial intelligence and machine learning are changing our lives in ways never previously thought possible, and it makes sense for us to seek brilliant entrepreneurs who can harness the power of data to improve the NHS and healthcare services globally, potentially transforming the lives of billions.”


Wayra UK and MSD believe that innovation can come from anywhere and are committed to help to identify, develop, promote and scale UK-based start-ups by leveraging Telefónica’s global resources and MSD’s health and data expertise to be a part of this new exciting era of health tech to support the NHS in providing a health system ready for our digital age.


In both the NHS Five Year Forward View and the Life Sciences Strategy, the NHS recognises the potential of technology to bring fundamental changes to healthcare delivery in the UK. Whether it is in further strengthening the science base, clinical trials capability or the creation of an environment that enables biotech and medtech companies to thrive and grow (e.g. in areas such as Artificial Intelligence, genomics and diagnostics) or to better support population health (e.g. through empowering healthcare professionals, and empowering patients), Velocity Health 2018 wants to continue to support the UK and the NHS in their continued mission of being a pioneer in healthcare.


Two start-ups will be chosen to take up a 10-month accelerator programme where a network of mentors, coaches and investors will nurture the entrepreneurial talent and technological expertise of each business to enable the development of innovative products and services to help deliver savings and efficiencies to the healthcare system.


Up to a total of £68K will be offered in investment to each start-up, which will include 50 per cent funds and the rest made up of dedicated acceleration services such as access to a network of mentors, coaches and investors. This will also include office space within Wayra UK’s new acceleration facility in Central London, potential access to Telefónica’s customer base of more than 300 million people, and MSD and Wayra’s local and global networks.


Applications open on Dec 4 with the deadline for applications on Jan 4. Finals will be taking place on Jan 12. Interested entrepreneurs can apply at (; the 2018 programme begins in February.

Editor's Details

Mike Wood

Last updated on: 05/12/2017

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