In support of the UK’s Drugs Strategy, From Harm to Hope, and Scottish Government’s National Mission on Drugs, the UK Office for Life Sciences (OLS) and the Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office (CSO), are funding an innovation challenge to develop disruptive innovative solutions that focus on detection of, response to, and intervention in potentially fatal drug overdose episodes. The challenge will be delivered across the 4 U.K. nations with NHS Fife Innovation Team, on behalf of Health Innovation South East Scotland (HISES) acting as the lead Test Bed on behalf of the Chief Scientist Office (CSO), delivery agent for the Innovation Challenge.

The overall competition will be delivered over two challenges.

Challenge 1 – Feasibility

  • Phase 1 – contracted companies will develop further their proposed approach to solving the competition challenge.
  • Phase 2 will only proceed if there is confidence amongst the Steering Group members that at least one of the prototype solutions looks likely to be able to solve the competition challenge.

Challenge 2 – Demonstration

Phase 2 only – contracted companies will test technology already at an advanced stage of development, and near ready to be deployed in a real-world environment.

This Innovation Challenge will provide an opportunity for companies, working in partnership with test bed research partner to develop disruptive innovative solutions that address:

  • Detection of potential overdose episodes
  • Alert or response to potential overdose episodes
  • Intervention therapeutics as antidotes to overdose episodes

Challenge Objectives

The central objective of this competition is to accelerate the development of innovative technologies that help to reduce drug-related deaths and harm across the whole of the UK and help people who use drugs and their support networks to work together to save lives. This will be achieved through focussing on technologies that the detection of, response to and intervention in potentially fatal overdoses. All of which will ultimately support in delivering on the UK’s drugs strategy, From harm to hope: a 10-year drugs plan to cut crime and save lives, and the Scottish Government’s National Mission on Drugs.

From harm to hope: a 10-year drugs plan to cut crime and save lives.


Eleven projects have been awarded up to £100,000 each to launch 4-month feasibility studies to develop prototypes, with one additional project securing up to £500,000 for a year-long demonstration study to collect real-world evidence with residents of homeless accommodation

The funded projects will operate across all 4 devolved nations of the UK and range from developing artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to detect overdoses, to emergency systems using drone technology to deliver antidotes, and wearable technologies such as smart watches or breathing monitors to detect overdoses and alert healthcare professionals, family or members of the community to the need to intervene.

Clinical Leads

Alex Baldacchino Professor of Medicine, Psychiatry and Addiction with the University of St Andrews is appointed as the Clinical lead for the Reducing Drug Deaths Innovation Challenge.

In addition the funded projects will be supported by 4 National clinical advisors who will be support the projects with relevant clinical advice and insights;

  • Dr Susanna Galea-Singer – Clinical Lead & Consultant Psychiatrist, NHS Fife Addiction Services
  • Dr Richard Lowrie – Lead Pharmacist Research and Development / Homeless Health (PHOENIx) team NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde
  • Dr Prun Bijral – Executive Medical Director Change Grow Live
  • Dr Roz Gittins – Director of Care Standards and Practice Improvement 

Delivery Partners

The challenge will be coordinated and managed by NHS Fife, HISES. Awardees must engage with a suitable research and innovation partner to serve as a ‘test bed’. Delivery partners of the challenge are based across all four UK nations;


  • Health Innovation South East Scotland
  • West of Scotland Innovation Hub
  • Scottish Ambulance Service


  • Kent Surrey Sussex AHSN
  • Wessex AHSN
  • West Midlands AHSN
  • Health Innovation Network South London


  • Welsh Ambulance Service

Northern Ireland

  • Drug and Alcohol Research Network (DARN)

Challenge Awardees

Eleven projects have been awarded up to £100,000 each to launch 4-month feasibility studies to develop prototypes, with one additional project securing up to £500,000 for a year-long demonstration study to collect real-world evidence with residents of homeless accommodation. The studies will begin in September. Any of the feasibility studies that show promising results will be able to apply for up to £500,000 grants to carry out follow-on 12-month demonstration projects starting in May 2024 to evaluate and collate real-world evidence of their technology with people from population groups most at risk of overdose.

  • Saving SAM: System for Alert and Monitoring of Potential Overdoses – eMoodie in partnership with the University of Edinburgh and NHS Scotland Health Innovation South East Scotland (HISES). This project will design and develop Saving SAM: an AI-enabled drug overdose monitoring system to enable both self and responder digital alerts.
  • DoseCare: Development and Evaluation of a Wearable-Integrated, AI-Powered Overdose Detection and Response System – Manchester Metropolitan University in partnership with Queen’s University of Belfast, Drug and Alcohol Research Network (Northern Ireland) and the Salvation Army. This project aims to harness the power of AI to revolutionise overdose detection and prevention mechanisms in healthcare. By focusing on 2 distinct user groups with varying levels of risk awareness, they intend to develop tailored solutions that significantly improve patient outcomes and enhance overall care delivery utilising wearable technologies and smart phone applications.
  • Ultra-portable fast-dispersal buccal naloxone for constant carriage: testing feasibility and acceptability – King’s College London in partnership with Catalent, Accord Health, Scottish Drug Forum, Scottish Families affected by Alcohol and Drugs (SFAD), DrugFAM, the Health Innovation Network and the South London Academic Health Science Network (AHSN). Naloxone is an opioid overdose antidote, however, existing naloxone products are bulky and have very low carriage rates. This feasibility project will examine a proposed ultra-portable fast-dispersal naloxone tablet suitable for constant carriage, so that it is always present with an individual who is present at an overdose emergency.
  • LifeSavr: Unobtrusive Wearable Device to Detect Overdose – NOMW Health Limited in partnership with the University of Southampton and NHS Scotland West of Scotland Innovation Hub. The study will focus on assessing the technical, economic, and operational aspects of the ‘LifeSavr’ device, which uses advanced sensor technology to provide real-time detection of opioid overdoses.
  • Drug Overdose Detection and Response using Care and Respond with CHAI999 – led by Science and Engineering Applications Ltd in partnership with Welsh and Scottish Ambulance Services. This project aims to explore the functionality of digital tools that can empower friends and family to support drug users and respond in the event of an overdose and link with emergency services to facilitate a co-ordinated response.
  • Vivisco Smart Revive Beacon for Opiate Overdose – Vivisco in partnership with the Kent Surrey Sussex AHSN, Forward Trust, Kent County Council and the Southeast Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust. Vivisco will work with organisations in Kent to co-design and prototype an automatic alert system to contact emergency services with GPS location and type of antidote used that is triggered when a naloxone package is opened.
  • Improving Harm Reduction Strategies for Illicit Drug Use: a Handheld Device for self-monitoring Benzodiazepine use – ZiO Health Ltd working with Health Innovation South East Scotland (HISES). ZiO-Health’s feasibility project is focused on improving harm reduction strategies for illicit drug use by developing a handheld therapeutic drug monitoring (TDM) device to notify users and responders of potential overdose.
  • In Time Naloxone – DroneMatLab Limited (King’s College London spinout) in partnership with the National Programme on Substance Abuse Deaths, HeroTech8, Midlands Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, University of Southampton and Wessex Academic Health Science Network. The project aims to develop an effective emergency response for the distribution of naloxone (an opioid overdose antidote), by drone to prevent opioid overdoses becoming fatal.
  • RescuePatch: a controlled-release combination patch for naloxone and flumazenil delivery – MESOX LTD in partnership with Health Innovation Southeast Scotland (HISES), Aston University, the National Physical Laboratory and On Target Pharma. This project will investigate a novel transdermal patch combination therapy called RescuePatch. The patch will contain a reservoir of antidotes to both opioid and benzodiazepine overdoses ad is designed to be applied by a non-professional, which is expected to improve responder pathways and increase the chance of patient survival.
  • Co-Evaluation Study of Overdose Detection and Response Wristband Technology – Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (MPFT) in partnership with Brave, Keele University, Two Saints Housing Association and the West Midlands Academic Health Science Network. To combat the growing problem of self-administrating drug users from overdosing, a multi-organisation collaborative led by MPFT propose to develop a wearable piece of technology that detects absence in user movements and alerts the individual or surrounding people to need for intervention.
  • A soft skin-interfacing strain sensor for overdose detection and prevention (ASSESSOR) – University of Glasgow in partnership with NHS Scotland West of Scotland Innovation Hub. The aim of this project is to develop a low-cost skin-interfacing sensor that can be seamlessly attached to the human body for long-term and remote monitoring of mechanical and physiological signs of overdose without affecting the routine daily activities of the user.
  • RESCU2 – Clinical Validation of Virtual Safe Drug Consumption Technology – PneumoWave (formerly Altair Medical Ltd) in partnership with the University of Dundee and King’s College London, alongside third sector partners including Humankind, Thames Reach, Hillcrest Futures, the Health Innovation Network and the Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) for south London. PneumoWave ALERT is a remote monitoring platform designed to make opioid usage safer. A discrete, chest-worn biosensor paired to a mobile device allows detection of the onset of life-threatening respiratory depression during an overdose event which then alerts nearby carriers of naloxone, and emergency medical services. This project will recruit 200 residents of homeless accommodation to participate in a study with aims of reducing drug deaths and gaining usability feedback from patients and care team.

Outputs expected

The challenge is expected to increase knowledge and accelerate the development of innovative technologies that will aid in reducing drug related deaths across the UK.

Phase 1 feasibility studies are expected to gain new knowledge and skills for developing new products, processes or services that will support in reducing drug related deaths.

Phase 2 demonstration projects will be a demonstration of the prototype in a representative environment that will have the potential to be implemented into a real world environment.

SBRI Key Dates

Phase 1 Challenge Launch – September 2023

Phase 1 End of Challenge – January 2024