When we think of the healthcare sector and its economic impact, our view is usually focused on those who provide care – our hospitals, GP practices and community care services.

While the region’s healthcare providers generate significant jobs and wealth directly and indirectly through procuring services, the vibrant and burgeoning health economy here in the West of England is much more, including a significant hub of private sector businesses, social enterprises and universities all focused on research and development, innovation and growth in the health and life sciences field.

Innovation is at the heart of our mission as an AHSN to support the West of England health economy.

We help to accelerate the generation and adoption of new innovations by: enabling collaborations between businesses with new solutions, health service providers and universities, who can provide the research base that underpins new technological developments facilitating funding to support feasibility studies, product development and evaluation co-creating new healthcare innovations with patients and the public supporting businesses and healthcare professionals on how to bring new ideas successfully to the healthcare market.

Key stats

93% of people who received support to identify, adopt and spread innovation feel this was valuable

410 people with diabetes are using digital tools to help manage their condition through Diabetes Digital Coach pilot projects

Our Healthcare Innovation Programme has supported 52 entrepreneurs in the West of England to develop new healthcare solutions and services

To date, we have helped attract £13.5 million in funding into the West of England for the development of innovative healthcare technologies and solutions

In the last year we gave business advice to 573 entrepreneurs and companies at connection events

Design Together, Live Better

Our Design Together, Live Better initiative is a citizen-led design programme, which aims to help people living with challenging health conditions improve their quality of life and maximise independence.

Following on from our work in 2015 with Designability to crowdsource ideas for three healthcare product prototypes, the programme continued in 2016 by supporting two local innovators to connect with citizens and healthcare professionals to develop their products (a speech therapy app and a musical memory box for people with dementia) using a combination of online surveys and face-to-face focus groups.

Design Together, Live Better will be scaled up as it goes online in 2017, enabling us to be more ambitious in our ability to connect people who are interested in creating or being part of designing new healthcare products with innovators of new technologies and solutions.

Diabetes Digital Coach

One of seven NHS Test Beds around the country, Diabetes Digital Coach is a unique collaboration between 11 partners, with the support of Diabetes UK and involving all our NHS commissioners and service providers.

Led by the West of England AHSN and funded by the Department of Health through Innovate UK, the findings of this pioneering feasibility project will have a significant impact on the future of digital health and citizen-centric healthcare.

During 2017-18, we are enrolling people in the West of England with type one and type two diabetes, providing them the opportunity to better self-manage their condition using a specially selected suite of integrated digital tools.

Diabetes is a life-threatening condition, and a priority area for the NHS to improve care and reduce costs. When diabetes is properly self-managed by people with the condition, it can be controlled to improve health outcomes and lower costs.

“Technology can be used to enable true partnership between the GP, consultant or practice nurse and the person with diabetes,” says Sandra Tweddell, coordinator of the Bristol Diabetes Support Network.

Diabetes Digital Coach is a really exciting initiative. It will enable more people to better manage their diabetes, hopefully reducing the awful complications that go with the condition.”

General Practice of the Future

The Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) Healthcare is an AHSN-led programme for NHS England, supporting the innovation, health and wealth agenda.

Recognising the current pressures in primary care, this year we have encouraged the development of innovative technologies by leading the General Practice of the Future SBRI competition, in partnership with Eastern and South West AHSNs. The three themes were self-care, diagnostics and earlier triage, and workload and demand management.

The competition attracted huge interest, and 22 companies were awarded a share in the £2.1 million investment to develop and commercialise novel technologies with the potential to revolutionise GP services and address the challenges of an ageing population.

This coming year we will support one of the local winners, Digital Algorithms, to help spread an exciting social prescribing product.

Healthcare Innovation Programme

The Healthcare Innovation Programme (HIP) has to date supported 122 healthcare entrepreneurs across Southern England to develop businesses that improve patient care, generate savings for the NHS, create jobs and economic growth.

A collaboration between four AHSNs (West of England, Kent Surrey & Sussex, Wessex and South West) and the global no. 1 university business incubator SETsquared, HIP is a unique personal development training programme helping healthcare entrepreneurs navigate what can be a very complex NHS business landscape.

Innovations that have benefitted from HIP so far include a pain self-management app, radiology image management, a speech therapy app, medical dictation software, and ‘how to’ videos for people with learning disabilities.

Healthcare from your living room

In partnership with Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) South West, our Healthcare from your living room event highlighted the role technology can play in assisting health and social care professionals and families to bring care to individuals at home.

Delegates heard about various pilot projects – national and international – with a focus on the progress being made in Denmark where key policy decisions have been made to ‘rebuild’ the hospital setting.

The event concluded with a call for a culture of open innovation, cooperation and collaboration between all health providers, and for users and their families to be at the centre to ensure their particular needs are really being met by technology solutions.

Download the full annual report here as a PDF or read it below via Issuu.