Driving pathways to innovation; funding, standards and guidance

Thursday morning at the HETT Show took us onto the topic of ‘driving pathways to innovation’.

This took the form of a panel discussion, which featured Piers Ricketts, Chief Executive of the Academic Health Science Network (AHSN), Eastern AHSN, as host.

He was joined by:

  • Chris Sawyer, Innovation Lead at Health Innovate UK
  • Sara Nelson, Deputy Programme Director at DigitalHealth.London
  • Rhod Joyce, Head of Strategic Partnerships, NHSX
  • Ian Newington, Head of Special Projects at the Health Innovation Challenge Fun with the National Institute for Health Research.

Conversation points covered a look at the wider healthcare collaboration landscape, including what support is available for small digital innovation companies re: funding, standards and guidance.

The panel all introduced themselves and got the chance to explain what they were working on at the moment in relation to the topics.

Chris spoke of the “complicated landscape”, adding: “I think we need to find a better way of kind of integrating that complex landscape, finding a better way of getting to work together…if we work together, I think we can make the system work incredibly effectively.

“I think sometimes we’re not working as well as we possibly could. I think there’s just a massive opportunity to make an incredible difference.”

While Ian assessed the provision of the right type of support to encourage and guide innovation companies and entrepreneurs. He said: “Funding is a key aspect…but actually it’s not just about getting people the money.

“Also, it’s about…supporting these people that do get funded…quite a lot of these companies…are very small companies.

“There are lots of apparent single front doors that tell you where to go. And I think the challenge is not so much finding the right door, it’s actually finding the right person who can help you navigate. You don’t need to know everything yourself…what you need to do is find someone who can help you to do that navigation.

“That’s one of the things my team and I spend quite a lot of time doing, which is connecting people and asking the right kind of questions to point them in the right direction.”

Piers also highlighted the “positive trend” of small companies that: “…do actually either have a clinician on the management team or often are founded by people who have been junior doctors, registrars etc and have come out and gone into technology.”

While the panellists shared their thoughts on a wide range of areas, Piers asked each to sum up by stating where the audience could look for and find some of the guidance and support mentioned.

Rhod explained: “The outline for DTAC (The Digital Technology Assessment Criteria for health and social care) is on the NHSX website…you’ll be able to see the assessment criteria and the work we’ve been doing. We’ll be publishing the final draft of that in the coming weeks.

“And then we’ll also be publishing the roll-out plan of how that’s going to happen. So one of the other pieces we’re looking to do is to how we bring together all the resources that at least we have within [NHSX]…where we have the digital playbooks, where we have DTAC…we’re trying to bring all that together and publish it in a common and consistent way.”

Sara also suggested where people could find guidance: “If you are a nurse or a midwife or an AHP (allied health professional) …currently we are looking at the NHSX website and how we can support you.

“If you are another clinical or non-clinical member of staff looking at leadership and what potential is out there, you’ve got the ‘Digital Pioneers’ through DigitalHealth.London, you’ve also got the [NHS] Digital Academy.

“If you have an innovation you would like to develop…yes, you’ve got your commercial areas within your own organisation maybe…but you’ve also got things like the Clinical Entrepreneur Programme, there’s also the national Innovation Accelerator as well.”

While Ian and Chris both reached out to the audience and also directed viewers towards sites such as National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and UK Research Institute (UKRI) for more information.