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UKINNOVATION UK61 The NIHR's Challenge Fund for Innovation ( CFI) is designed to stimulate a flow of novel ideas that can be turned into NHS products. The CFI also invests in other government departments, research councils and the pri-vate sector. The Institute's Challenge Fund partners include: » » Assisted Living Innovation Platform of the Technology Strategy Board ( TSB); » » Knowledge Transfer Partnerships programme ( TSB); » » Medical Futures competition; » » MATCH- PLUS ( Multi- disciplinary Assessment of Technology Centre for Healthcare) research collaboration funded by NIHR and the EPSRC; » » Rapid Detection and Identification of Infectious Diseases Innovation Platform ( TSB); and » » the Science and Technology Facilities Council ( STFC). Through the NIHR, the Department of Health is piloting a new Small Business Research Initiative with the TSB. A first call for pilot proposals in the area of healthcare infections was issued in October 2008. Working with the pharmaceutical, biomedical and medi-cal devices industries is a key part of the NIHR's work. NIHR is the bridge between industry and NHS- facilitated research. Many of the treatments and solutions devel-oped by our researchers can only achieve mass produc-tion and roll- out across the NHS with help from industry. NEW HOPE FOR GLAUCOMA SUFFERS " Monitoring internal eye pressure - intraocular pres-sure or IOP - is an essential part of glaucoma manage-ment. But as this pressure constantly varies through-out the day, measuring it, as now happens, just two to three times a year is insufficient for effective disease management. As a result, 15% of those diagnosed lose their eyesight within 15 years even though they are under care. " To help address this problem, with the help of £ 100,000 from the NIHR, we have developed a soft contact lens device with built- in pressure sensors, which can monitor IOP over at least a 24- hour period. In the long term we hope the lens will be capable of both managing and treating glaucoma through the delivery of IOP- lowering medication, which can be stored within the contact lens and released if pressure rises above a certain threshold. " The money from NIHR's i4i programme has enabled us to optimise the design and to check its feasibility. The work also includes experimental validation and a limited clinical trial." Structural engineer Dr Ahmed Elsheikh is Senior Lec-turer in Structural Engineering and leader of the Ocu-lar Biomechanics Group at the University of Dundee. His research could revolutionise treatment for glau-coma, the most common cause of irreversible blind-ness, which affects 500,000 people in this country. The NIHR's Clinical Research Network matches patients and public volunteers to clinical studies in the NIHR portfolio. Studies are either fully funded by the NIHR or co- funded with partners such as the MRC, medical chari-ties like the Wellcome Trust, and life sciences industries. Most importantly, the NIHR's work is making a differ-ence to patients in a very real, tangible way. Their needs, their experiences, their testimony, is what drives the NIHR. Their individual stories are at the same time, heart breaking and heart warming, inspirational, poignant, joy-ous and every emotion inbetween. They are at the heart of NIHR's work. Healthcare national institute for health research

62INNOVATION UK MAKING A REAL AND TANGIBLE DIFFERENCE Joshua Pratt, aged two, is one of 310 children whose life has potentially been transformed by NIHR's ran-domised controlled trial of ion- exchange water sof-teners for the treatment of atopic eczema in children. Joshua's mother Jo says: " Just after birth, Joshua developed eczema. He had raw, weeping skin all over his face and patches over the rest of his body. It was terribly distressing for him and the rest of our family. We found out about the SWET trial when our GP referred us to Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham. We wanted to join it because we were keen to do anything that might help Joshua and other children with eczema. " We had a water softener - a big box installed under the sink that we had to load with blocks of salt for 12 weeks to remove minerals from the water. We also had a special watch called an Actiwatch for Joshua to wear to see how much he fidgeted at night ( a measure of the discomfort the eczema was causing him). " A nurse monitored Joshua's skin while the softener was in place and then again for another four weeks after it was removed. Joshua's skin was masses bet-ter and since the softener was taken away he has remained eczema- free, although obviously we don't know for certain whether this was because of the softener. " Research like this is definitely money well spent and it is good to think that something so simple could help other babies and young children to avoid the misery Joshua went through." The trial that Joshua was involved in was led by Pro-fessor Hywel Williams, an NIHR Senior Investigator. Professor Williams directs the Centre of Evidence Based Dermatology at Nottingham. He founded and is now director of the Nottingham Clinical Trials Unit and was chair of the Research for Patient Benefit pro-gramme for the East Midlands from 2006 to 2009. He has published more than 250 peer- reviewed papers and three books, and raised over £ 7 million in non-commercial grant funding for investigating skin dis-eases. He says: " As a dermatologist, I'm extremely proud to be a Sen-ior Investigator. It's made me so much more commit-ted to spreading the word about research among the dermatology community. It's a way of saying research is everybody's business. It's not just for academics working in universities and colleges, it's for all of us." About the NIHR The National Institute for Health Research provides the framework through which the research staff and research infrastructure of the NHS in England is positioned, main-tained and managed as a national research facility. The NIHR provides the NHS with the support and infrastruc-ture it needs to conduct first- class research funded by the government and its partners alongside high- quality patient care, education and training. Its aim is to sup-port outstanding individuals ( both leaders and collabo-rators), working in world- class facilities ( both NHS and university), conducting leading- edge research focused on the needs of patients. For more information, visit: http:// www. nihr. ac. uk/ Healthcare national institute for health research