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Translating academic research ideas into health and care innovation

Posted on 28th April

Faiza Abdul Aziz is an impact administrator and master’s student at the University of Bath, who recently attended our Lunch with Impact event for University of Bath researchers, hosted by our Industry and Innovation team. In this blog, Faiza shares her insights and learnings from the session, including how the AHSN can support academic researchers and innovators to work with the NHS health and care system.

The virtual ‘Lunch with Impact’ on 30 March focused on the theme of translating research ideas into innovations that promise better health and care outcomes. We were joined by the team from the West of England Academic Health Science Network (AHSN), who gave us an insight into the role of the AHSN, how to navigate the NHS as a marketplace for innovations, and the support AHSN provides for researchers at the University of Bath.

Dr. Cheryl Scott (Industry and Innovation Lead, West of England AHSN) started with a beautiful childhood reminiscence of playing in the grounds of the University of Bath and finding innovative ways to hide from the security; linking this story with the role of AHSN in “finding solutions to problems.”  Dr Scott explained that the key to working on research and innovations for better NHS outcomes is identifying the market/demand pull, which addresses current needs of service-users, as opposed to a technology push, which looks for ‘a problem to the pre-conceived solution.’

Dr Scott outlined that England’s 15 AHSNs function as the innovation arm of the NHS, with a collective aim of transforming lives through healthcare innovation. Some of their priorities include improving the innovation pipeline, supporting digital transformation, and building capability and sharing knowledge, across NHS services including, but not limited to, mental health, maternity and neonatal, and medicines safety.

Professor Nigel Harris (Director of Innovation and Growth, West of England AHSN) further explained how the NHS is changing with the development of integrated care systems and this brings big opportunities to find the right solutions; ones which can transform outcomes through a product or service that addresses identified problems.

These priorities differ between systems within the NHS and also locally. Some of the current motivations include reducing burden on GPs, developing a prevention agenda, and facilitating early discharge from services. Research ideas and innovations that address recognised problems and priorities are more likely to gain traction within the NHS.

Finally, Dr. Richard Stevenson (Research Associate, Department for Health and Innovation Advisor, West of England AHSN) described the different ways in which the AHSN can support the researchers at our university.  Dr Stevenson outlined that he is available to support researchers through the process of requesting support from the AHSN including advising on the documentation that you will need to complete.

So, what support can the West of England AHSN provide researchers and innovators at the University of Bath?  There is a range of support on offer, including:

  • Understanding current health and care needs, through access to early-stage clinical input from lead clinicians, and connections to Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) and other subject matter experts
  • Developing a value proposition, with credible and coherent claims to demonstrate the value of your product or service to the NHS
  • Generating the evidence to support the real-world evaluation (proof of value) of the service or product
  • Signposting to resources including funding opportunities, medical regulation and support with commercialisation
  • Engagement with health and care organisations (including NHS) and industry
  • Advise on funding applications and provide letters of support for funding applications

The Health and Care system/NHS has huge opportunities for research ideas and innovations that can improve or increase the care provision. However, the landscape is competitive and selective, which is where the AHSN helps researchers in identifying current priorities, connecting with the experts in the field, and obtaining funding for their innovations. The AHSN provides catered support for the researchers at the University of Bath in planning and achieving research impact, allowing a massive opportunity to translate your research idea into an innovation that transforms patient and NHS outcomes.

As a master’s student myself, I can say that often, as students, we tend to get caught up in research in terms of addressing a gap and devising research questions and methodology; but rarely do we think beyond the final written research paper. Attending the ‘Lunch with Impact’ session gave me an insight into how a research output is not necessarily the endpoint, but rather should be the beginning of creating an impact; for which it is important that you address a relevant research question, understand whom this might be important to, and consider how to best engage and disseminate your research in order to create an impact.

If you are an academic researcher / innovator at the University of Bath, interested in translating your research ideas and insights into positive outcomes for patients and the NHS, then contact Dr Richard Stevenson at the West of England AHSN to discuss.


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