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Maximising the Opportunities for HealthTech Innovation at Imperial

Topic : News and Press Type : Briefing

The ‘Closer collaboration between NHS and industry’ event was organised in partnership by the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, the Shelford Group and the Association of British HealthTech Industries (ABHI), with the aim of building stronger relationships between the NHS and industry. 

Last year, the Shelford Group, as a collaborative of ten of the largest research and teaching hospitals in England, and the ABHI, the UK’s leading HealthTech Trade Association, committed to a joint programme of work to offer solutions to some of the biggest challenges impacting the NHS via partnership working. Imperial College Healthcare is the first of the Shelford Group’s ten NHS Trusts to host an event as part of this series.  

The event’s focus was on building awareness and understanding of how successful partnerships between NHS, communities, academia, and industry can support the development of technologies that meet the needs of patients and the NHS and accelerate the uptake and spread of research and innovation. Over 40 health technology companies were among the attendees.   

Opening the event, Professor Tim Orchard, chief executive of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and chair of the Shelford Group. said: “There's a constant debate about how the NHS can be a better partner to organisations that are developing technologies that address the needs of the NHS. We're hoping that this will be the first in the series of events to build stronger relationships between the NHS and industry and support the development of technologies that are of real use to our patients and the NHS.” 

Peter Ellingworth, chief executive of ABHI, who also spoke at the event, said: “Whether you are in the NHS or industry, we need to gain a better understanding of each other. A big opportunity lies in understanding each other to a level of intensity that lets us run our businesses and health systems with real purpose and change that overcomes inertia.” 

Through a series of panel discussions, the event showcased some of the Trust’s areas of strength for engagement with the health technology industry, including digital health, the NIHR Imperial Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), and community partnerships.  

The event was also an opportunity to explore some of the wider considerations and challenges of health technology innovation in the UK, with a focus on the increased regulatory challenges facing the industry.  

Unlocking the value of data and digital  

Mr Erik Mayer, the Imperial BRC digital health theme lead and director of iCARE and the Digital Collaboration Space, chaired a discussion that drew on examples and key learnings from existing Trust digital health partnerships with industry to enable the use of artificial intelligence in healthcare. Some examples of projects being worked on include using AI to improve clinical and administrative efficiencies and the involvement of communities and patients to deliver safe and equitable technologies. 

The vital role of the NIHR Imperial BRC in supporting the translation of medical technology was emphasised in a panel discussion chaired by Professor Mark Thursz, Director of the Imperial BRC. The NIHR Imperial BRC is a partnership between the Trust and Imperial College London and was awarded £95.3 million investment by the NIHR in 2022. 

A number of BRC theme leads showcased examples of how this research infrastructure can work with industry to accelerate the translation of new research, including the ORBITA-2 trial exploring the effect of heart stents, and the TRICORDER programme using AI stethoscopes to diagnose heart failure. 

Collaboration to create value 

The importance of how partnerships between the NHS and industry can help deliver social, health and commercial value was emphasised in a discussion led by Professor Bob Klaber, Imperial College Healthcare director of strategy, research and innovation. 

The discussion drew on examples from the Trust’s Paddington Life Sciences development, which aims to create a thriving ecosystem for life sciences research and innovation in north west London. As part of this, the Trust is working with several local partners, including Vodafone, on projects that aim to deliver social value to local communities in Paddington.  

Speaking on the next steps, Professor Bob Klaber, said: “This event discussion around how we best move forward with our research, innovation and life sciences work as an organisation, in partnership with the College, and with industry as a wider system, contributed very fully to what felt like a productive day. The ultimate test of that will be from the impact of the collaborations and partnerships that we hope will follow from it.”