UKRI backs digital therapy for mental health

Woman using VR headset

Image source: Kegfire

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has put up £3 million to support a round of projects to develop digital therapeutic solutions for mental health issues.

It has announced funding for 29 projects under its Mindset programme, using immersive technologies such as extended and virtual reality (VR) using headsets, remote touch, sounds and mobile gaming. They will support conditions including bipolar disorder, psychosis, autism, dementia and anxiety.

UKRI, a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, said the programme has a total budget of £20 million and is aimed at growing the UK’s digital mental health sector. It involves investment in projects and the creation of a supportive ecosystem.

It said the mental health problems of some kind will be experienced by one in four people each year in the UK, and delivering therapies through VR can achieve outcomes two or three times faster than traditional treatments.

Among the projects to be supported include Wales based Rescape, exploring how musical content and AI can be used to create a personalised VR solution for people with anxiety, and XR Therapeutics’ use of VR headsets to help children in the North-East with autism or phobias. Another involves London based SyncVR creating a mood management application to be used with VR headsets to support high risk patients.

Transforming care

George MacGinnis, UKRI ageing challenge director, said: “A warm welcome to the innovators who have won grants in our first call to develop immersive mental health therapeutics. As we see demand for mental health support outstrip the capacity of health services around the world, solutions using immersive technologies could transform the way care is provided.

“These new tools provide clinicians the ability to deliver a more engaging experience, improve access to care and enable those clinicians to see and treat more patients effectively. The UK has a huge talent devoted to developing immersive digital experiences and applying this to create novel solutions for mental health could be a real game changer.”

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