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Connecting the NHS with Industry Innovators

Written by: Neville Young - 20th July 2021

In this blog, Neville Young, our Director of Enterprise and Innovation, reflects on our work over the past year bringing industry innovators and the NHS together and supporting the adoption of healthcare innovation on a regional, national and international level.

The recent pandemic has highlighted how the role of healthcare innovation in preparing our society to deal with the complex challenges of the 21st century has never been so critical. Great healthtech businesses do two things; they improve people’s lives and create high quality jobs, but to do this they need to understand how to sell to the NHS.

Our work with these innovative companies is a central element of our role as we seek to encourage health innovation that improves patient outcomes and stimulate growth in the life sciences industry by securing business with our health service.

As an AHSN we have had to provide a rapid response to meet the ‘new needs’ of the NHS over the past year and we have been working with our AHSN Network colleagues to triage innovations, perform due diligence and support national procurement and adoption of innovative technologies in partnership with NHSX, NHS England and NHS Improvement.

Over the past year we spent over 1,800 hours supporting 356 companies ranging from large multi-nationals, small and medium-sized enterprises (SME), clinical entrepreneurs and innovators to learn about their products and assess how we can best guide them according to their needs.

In addition to hosting 29 innovation surgeries through which we offer companies bespoke support and advice around evidence generation, regulatory, market access and commercialisation guidance, we have supported 26 grant applications for the likes of the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI), Invention for Innovation (i4i) Programme and Innovate UK. Adding to that our other business development and investment activity, we have leveraged an additional £5.3m of investment into the region.

Working with the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP) in our region, we now have a strong understanding of one another’s business support and inward investment activity and we continue to look at ways in which we can work collaboratively.

In South Yorkshire, we have increased awareness of the AHSN’s support to healthcare innovators through the Sheffield City Region LEP’s Growth Hub and explored opportunities for partnering on international activity.

The Leeds City Region LEP as well as the Local Authority, Hill Dickinson LLP and Barclays Eagle labs have contributed to the delivery of our Propel@YH digital accelerator programme in Nexus at Leeds. We are working with them to strengthen a health tech corridor with Israeli companies who are looking to invest in the Leeds City Region (LCR). With Hull and East Yorkshire LEP, a referrals process has been established with where they are working with healthcare innovators who may benefit from AHSN support.

Despite three national lockdowns, my team has successfully delivered 16 online events with a total of 500 attendees representing all aspects of health and innovation. Our Health Innovation Exchange service was the umbrella for us to host the Cervical Screening Best Practice Showcase in partnership with Yorkshire Cancer Research and Public Health England and we are now supporting innovators with follow-up projects and regional alliances.

All our events have allowed us to share learning around the adoption of innovation on regional, national and international levels and we have cultivated strong strategic relationships to explore how the AHSNs can support this new way of engaging moving forward.

We are working towards becoming a key partner for healthcare innovators who are seeking support to export their products into other markets, whilst also identifying innovations from outside the UK that might meet an unmet need in our region. We have taken big strides in providing knowledge exchange events for our NHS organisations to work with peers from overseas in Switzerland, Sweden, Barcelona and Israel to help build partnerships that will drive innovation and improve patient outcomes and ultimately, provide economic growth to our region by helping bring international businesses to Yorkshire and Humber.

The Department of International Trade’s technology summits in India and Japan gave us the opportunity to present the work of the AHSN Network to world leaders, entrepreneurs and investors and the Health System Strengthening Week hosted by the Thailand Centre of Excellence for Life enabled us to demonstrate how Thai partners could draw on our AHSN Network experience to develop their own ‘Health Innovation Clusters’.

Our work with Norway Health Tech introduced Norwegian SMEs and their innovations to the UK healthcare system and vice versa and we have recently submitted a first draft proposal for a partnership between Oslo Hospital and Leeds Teaching Hospitals to share knowledge and innovation.  Meanwhile, we have been establishing relationships with sector related organisations in Japan and Taiwan to orchestrate workshops that can help their native innovators break into the UK market and our NHS.

While we take great pride in our successes, we are set for another momentous year as we support the adoption and spread of innovations such as Revolution-ZERO’s carbon neutral surgical masks, that have been specially designed to significantly reduce waste, and Pinpoint, an artificial intelligence cancer detection test that allows clinicians to ‘red flag’ high-risk patients.

I would like to thank all our partners and stakeholders; without whose active collaboration and fantastic support we could not have achieved the scale of our results.

Find out more about our work in our Impact Report.