A £140million artificial intelligence (AI) award, which aims to bring life-saving innovation to the NHS, has been launched by the health secretary.

Run by the Accelerated Access Collaborative (AAC) in partnership with NHSX, the award will form part of the £250 million AI Lab announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2019.

Companies are being encouraged to bid for a share of £140 million to launch their AI innovation across the health service, with funding awarded based on their potential to save lives and free up staff time and help deliver.

The award was launched by Matt Hancock at the Parliament and HealthTech Conference event on 28 January.

He said: “This whole agenda is not about technology, it’s about people. The best kind of tech is the technology you barely notice because it just works.

“It’s the tech that gets you away from the screen and lets you make eye contact with the patient in front of you.

“It’s the kind of tech that helps humanise a difficult and demanding environment, by freeing you up to do more of the work you love.

“Giving clinicians back the gift of time and allowing them to care.

“That’s what we’re aiming for, it’s what clinicians are crying out for, it’s what patients expect and it’s what will bring our NHS into the 21st century.”

The first call for applications was launched on 28 January and will remain open for five weeks.

Any innovator working with the AI Lab will need to comply with the laws and regulations that protect health and care data, as well as the NHS’s Code of Conduct for data-driven technologies.

This will ensure that AI is developed in a safe, ethical, evidenced and transparent way that puts patient privacy first.

Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, added: “Throughout our history the NHS has led the way in designing, developing and introducing cutting-edge technology, and as we futureproof the health service for the 21st century and beyond, artificial intelligence has the potential to transform how we deliver patients’ care.

“From helping to personalise NHS screening and treatments for cancer, eye disease and a range of other conditions, the possibilities that AI could help with are vast and the NHS is already ramping up the use of world-leading technology as part of our Long Term Plan.”

More information and how to apply for the award can be found on the NHS England and Improvement website.