National Innovation Centre www. nic. nhs. uk If the life science and health-care technology industries are to make a major contribution to the future wealth of the UK, then it is imperative that the business of innovating in those fields is managed. Lord Darzi, former Minister for Health, and Lord Drayson, Minister for Science and Inno-vation at BIS, are agreed that we can no longer afford to leave innovation to chance. An educated public together with a weak economy are demand-ing quality healthcare and the highest standard of associated products - and all for the same price or less. Historically, leaving NHS innova-tion to chance resulted in good innovations never seeing the light of day or, if they made it, a slow take-up of ideas, or, worse still, devel-opment go-ing overseas so that IP haemorrhaged from the UK. The current pan- government em-phasis on life sciences places a responsibility on the healthcare technology industry to become one of the future pillars of UK GDP and deliver economic value from its innovations. Managing the innovation process But this commercial approach to healthcare innovation isn't new to one NHS organisation. Two years ago, the National Innovation Cen-tre ( NIC) embraced this joint policy agenda and has already delivered some startling results. Working with products in the pre- market stage, they are committed to the strategy of ' managing innova-tion'. Brian Winn, who heads the NIC, says: " We leave the creativity to the innovator, but we manage the process of making an idea a reality. The key success factors are to identify a genuine and impor-tant enough need, to manage the growth of the solution, show that it works in the real world and then to share it." In a nutshell, the NIC helps innovators by providing an infrastruc-ture to support all of those key factors. Identifying a genuine and important enough need As a rule, human nature propels us towards solutions to problems, without first testing the impor-tance of the need. The UK's 2,000 life sciences SMEs will tell you that their job would be straightfor-ward, not to mention more prof-itable, if only they could receive clearly articulated needs from the NHS. As it is, most suppliers de-sign and develop in the dark and hope that their products hit the spot. Sadly, too many healthcare innovations are left sitting on the proverbial shelf. In response to this problem, the NIC has teamed up with the Technology Strategy Board ( TSB) to harness ' statements of need' from practising NHS clinicians. These are posted onto the NIC website - http:// clinicalneed. nic. nhs. uk/ - and commercial suppli-ers can then respond. Some can partner an NHS Trust and apply to the local SHA to access the new innovation funds, or they can go to the NIC who will also give fi-nancial support to develop select-ed solutions. The clinical needs come from across the healthcare spectrum. Current examples in-clude a need for a means to align bone screws with pelvic anatomy in Orthopaedic surgery and a need for an alternative method of foetal monitoring in problem pregnancies. Another route to developing in-novation is through a process known as ' Wouldn't It Be Great If.' ( WIBGI). This approach charges teams from industry and the NHS to identify both their clinical needs and the potential technology solutions. The NIC's approach was first applied to Or-thopaedics ( knee and hip surgery) to support delivery of the 18- week programme. Professor Sue Hill and Paul Griffiths managed the process for DH's 18- week pro-gramme, and used the approach to bring together both practising NHS professionals and industry to look at clinical needs. Nurses, physiotherapists, surgeons, indus-try and policy makers went on to select 5 high- impact technologies that they felt would have a ma-jor impact on reducing waiting lists. Professor Hill said: " It seems another age now, but in 2007, cracking the long waiting lists in Orthopaedics was a huge chal-lenge. I felt the clinical community in Orthopaedics knew the prob-lems and many of the answers, and the WIBGI approach allowed us to get to those." " The NHS should anticipate and respond to the challenges of the fu-ture." Lord Darzi, High Quality Care for All, June 2008. A multi- disciplinary approach to identifying needs and solutions helped reduce Orthopaedic waiting lists. " The key success factors to realising the value in innovations are identifying a genuine and important enough need, managing the growth of the solution, showing that it works in the real world and then sharing it." Brian Winn, National Innovation Centre.
INNOVATION UK HEALTHCARE More recently, the WIBGI ap-proach was applied to the DH's Healthcare Acquired Infection programme ( HCAI). With HCAIs costing the NHS over £ 1 billion a year, the ' needs based' approach again brought the NHS, industry and design experts together to look at cross- infection issues and jointly develop solutions. Based on an ' open innovation' model, the approach overcame tradi-tional barriers by working more closely with industry and directly linking health need to technology supply. The aim was to get prod-ucts designed, developed and in place so that they could benefit patients as quickly as possible. The result was 17 new product designs in as many months - a significantly faster solution than the traditional approach of wait-ing for the market to develop new products and then procure and implement them. Open Innovation platforms The NIC is currently using its novel approach in six other ar-eas - Blood Donation, Paediatrics, Urology, Ambulance Services, Heart Failure and Regenerative Medicine. Again working in part-nership with the TSB, the NIC brought together clinical teams from each of the disciplines to first identify the needs. At sub-sequent meetings, NHS, industry and academia came together to outline the desired solutions, the business opportunities they might present and other requirements that might be needed to bring the concept to market. By using an ' open innovation' approach, the silos that are usually created around IP ownership, product de-velopment and procurement were avoided and all parties were able to focus their efforts on the out-come required. Managing the growth of the solution All of the WIBGI outcomes are now posted on the NIC website http:// competitions. nic. nhs. uk/ ChallengeList. aspx so that exter-nal suppliers can apply to address the needs. The NIC expects that some of the solutions will be met by industry with minimum input; others will demand more support from the NIC who will work with external suppliers to develop so-lutions to the articulated needs. NIC will provide financial support to help commercial companies either develop ideas unilaterally or in collaboration with others. This is a structured process that involves the NIC liaising along the way with the NHS Supply Chain to support ultimately the take- up of the products across the NHS. A temporary isolation unit and improved handwashing procedures were amongst 17 ideas that are in development to control the spread of Healthcare Acquired Infections. Clinicians, academics, industrialists and designers from across the innovation spectrum came together at the WIBGI innovation work-shops at ExCel in June to outline solutions to clinically identified need. The NIC will now take a dozen ideas forward for further de-velopment.