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Online networking – hyvr and the Innovation Exchange

As the connectors, the people that bring together innovators and clinicians from all parts of the health and care spectrum, we are constantly trying to build communities of interest. There is only a small team of us, and many thousands of innovative ideas and opportunities out there. So to expand our capacity to deliver services and facilitate collaboration we are increasing our presence online.

Over the last year we have been building and refining two online tools: hyvr, our online collaboration tool; and the Innovation Exchange, a web portal through which innovators can find collaborators, funding opportunities and business resources. By adding these services to our existing business support, we’re developing the tools to really nurture and grow the innovation ecosystem in the West of England.

The two systems share some similarities and users can move seamlessly between them. Here Jo Bangoura, Senior Project Manager, who has overseen the development of both platforms, outlines what makes them unique.

The Innovation Exchange

Through our Innovation and Growth team we offer bespoke support to hundreds of companies every year, at every stage of the innovation lifecycle, from ideation to full-scale adoption. Sometimes innovators need the personalised assistance of our business support team, but sometimes they just need a connection, introduction or somebody to point them in the right direction. This second kind of interaction is where the Innovation Exchange web portal comes in.

The Innovation Exchange website provides access to all of our business support services in one place. The website offers:
• a directory of business services and facilities
• local and national funding opportunities
• business development programmes and a rangeof business support services
• online toolkits and resources
• information on our strategic partners andtheir services.

While the site focuses on the West of England, however businesses from any part of the country can register on our directory for free. We want potential collaborators to be able to find each other easily. We’re also encouraging registered users to promote their events through the portal and hope to build a comprehensive listing of key innovation-related events in our region.


hyvr has grown out of our work on co-design of healthcare innovation. Placing users, patients and carers at the heart of the design process allows products and services to be designed with them, not for them. This was the approach of our successful Design Together, Live Better project through which we supported local innovators to engage with citizens and healthcare professionals to develop prototype products using a combination of online surveys and face to-face focus groups.

The project succeeded in facilitating real engagement and enabled a number of products to make progress, but it was time-consuming and resource intensive. That got us thinking about other ways we might be able to facilitate the same kind of interaction at scale. The result of this thinking was hyvr, a social networking site that enables groups of interest to form in ‘hives’ to discuss ideas, issues, new innovations and products. The site enables innovators to get feedback on concepts to help shape their development to market-ready products. They can ask other users if they ‘like’ what they see and then review responses to see if the idea is worth further refinement and consultation.

hyvr enables dialogue for any group to easily share ideas and experiences, and has additional built in features to gather feedback – all contributing to innovation in healthcare through co-design and crowd-intelligence. We are trialling hyvr with a number of voluntary sector groups as exemplar projects. We are supporting them to use hyvr as a way to widen and deepen community engagement in their projects. At the same time we’re building the active community of users on hyvr learning more about how the platform can be used.

The site is free to use and completely free of adverts or any data-sharing small print, giving users peace of mind.

If you register on either hyvr or the Innovation Exchange you’ll have the chance to connect with innovators and potential collaborators across our region. Even better, as the systems are connected, you only need to register once to access both systems ■

Read more in our Innovating Together magazine – a look back at the work of  West of England AHSN in the year 2018-19, and a look ahead to some the work we have planned . Download it here as a PDF or read it below via Issuu.