The NHS faces increasing demand at a time of constrained public spending. The imperative for the NHS to do more with less is well recognised; identifying, nurturing, adopting and diffusing innovation is a key part of the solution.
The Small Business Research Initiative for Healthcare (SBRI Healthcare) is an NHS England initiative, championed by the Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs), whose role is to promote UK economic growth by spreading innovation and best practice across the NHS. The SBRI Healthcare competitions are launched on a biannual basis and result in fully funded development contracts between the awarded company and NHS England, to meet known healthcare needs.
Generally taking a three-phased development approach, projects start with a 6 month feasibility phase (Phase 1), moving on to a more detailed product development (Phase 2), and are then given an opportunity for validation in NHS setting to accelerate product adoption (Phase 3).
Led through the AHSNs, SBRI Healthcare has built a pipeline of potential innovations that meet the dual objectives of addressing NHS needs and stimulating economic activity. The programme has already created over 100 jobs with estimated savings to the NHS likely to be in excess of £1bn.
The programme continues to go from strength to strength with a nearly five-fold increase in available funding over the last two years. NHS England has a keen focus on their support for economic growth and, along with the AHSN commitment, can look forward to SBRI expanding over the next five years.
As one of the 15 regional AHSNs, the West Midlands AHSN covers an area supported by a high level of academic innovation, generated through a regional community of world-leading universities. As a result of its rich industrial heritage, the region is home to more than 550 medical technology companies employing in excess of 9,000 staff, more than in any other UK region.
By Karen Livingstone, National Director SBRI Healthcare