Invention is the discovery phase in the innovation journey. It may involve a ‘eureka moment’ but, as the saying goes, a lot of perspiration will lie behind that moment of inspiration. A full understanding of the problem being addressed is an important first step. If you’re working at this stage of the innovation journey you’ll be generating ideas or refreshing old ones, and selecting the best for testing.

Reviews of data and research help identify challenges and opportunities, as can finding partners and collaborators – this is where our Innovation Exchange excels (see below). Supporting that very early stage is key and this is where programmes such as Create Open Health come in, helping to shape, refine and support ideas. Both the Innovation Exchange and Create Open Health enable early stage innovators to refine their ideas, build networks and access support and funding that will help them move to the next stage.

Create Open Health

Through community empowerment, communication and collaboration, Create Open Health (COH) launched in 2019, as a development programme for new entrepreneurial talent. The programme sought digital ideas, solutions or products that could help build resilience in young people and support positive mental health, an area identified by our member organisations as one of our region’s healthcare challenges.

Led in partnership with Creative England and The Wellcome Trust, COH is a truly collaborative project. Anyone with a novel idea, proposition or early-stage solution rooted in technology or a digital approach – that directly supports and empowers children and young people, their carers or community – was encouraged to respond to our national call. This was open to parents, caregivers, entrepreneurs, clinicians, mental health professionals and people with lived experience.

By working with technical and sector experts, including Disruptive Thinking and mental health charity Off The Record, our innovative outreach methods engaged with a broad and diverse participant group.

Eleven participants built on their ideas during an intensive two-day boot camp. They received guidance on implementing their idea within the NHS, healthcare and creative industries, financing advice, and technical and business development expertise.

Programme objectives relating to the number of applicants, their demography, and ideas submitted, were significantly exceeded. Ten applicants were matched with expert advice, two of whom received follow-on support to help turn their ideas into potentially viable products.

Putting the human element first, and using tech as the enabler, is a key takeaway from this project, and that can be applied to any problem in industry, in any sector.

Yiuwin Tsang, Disruptive Thinking

Find out more about Create Open Health:

Innovation Exchange

Our Innovation Exchange, which has continued to grow and develop over the last year, is our front door for innovators.

Powered by our online portal (, it provides access to all of our business support services in one place, including:

  • a directory of business services and facilities
  • local and national funding
  • business development programmes and a range of business support services
  • online toolkits and resources
  • information on our strategic partners, their services and opportunities for collaboration.

Our Innovation and Growth team has offered one-to-one assistance to over 150 companies requiring more bespoke support in the last year, at every stage of the innovation lifecycle, from ideation to full-scale adoption.

Connectivity and collaboration is essential for developing and exploiting innovation and this is where the Innovation Exchange and its directory map is so useful. If you are a researcher looking for a collaborator or if you are a company looking for a partner, then the Innovation Exchange is the perfect tool. I certainly recommend that companies, research groups and centres add themselves to the Innovation Exchange map to enhance opportunities for developing collaborations and promoting their innovation.

Richard Luxton, Chair of Medilink South West and Director of the Institute of Bio-Sensing Technology

Future of Care

New technologies are opening up the possibilities for improving health and care faster than ever. This year, our Future of Care events looked at two exciting fields with enormous potential: the promise of genomics to provide personalised medicine and the impact that robotics and autonomous systems can have for increasing our independence.

Future of Care is all about thought leadership and debating the art of the possible. These events belong firmly at the ‘invention’ stage of the innovation spiral and bring together an audience of system leaders, clinicians and innovators with leading experts to debate how cutting-edge ideas could be applied in real-world settings and what risks and challenges may need to be overcome.

The science of genomics is already leading to better diagnoses for patients, better and safer treatments, opportunities for screening and the possibilities for prevention. These advances open the door for more personalised medicine, bringing genomics into standard clinical practice, as well as discovering simple interventions that could help hundreds of thousands of people with a genetic disorder.

Robotics is a wide field encompassing ‘smart’ technology already in our homes to standalone autonomous systems that will have the potential to keep us safe, help us recover from an operation or stroke, and support us to self-manage long-term conditions. By combining both these topics with the power of data analysis and artificial intelligence, we could be on the cusp of redefining how people maintain their health and wellbeing.