West of England Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) at Future Space

October 9th 2019

The West of England Academic Health Science Network (West of England AHSN) has been based at Future Space since January 2018. We caught up with project manager Rosie Brown and project support officer Chris Padgett, to find out more about their work and how being at Future Space is integral to the organisation.

Q: Tell us about West of England AHSN and the work you do?

We’re part of a national network of 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) across England. We’re a membership organisation bringing together the health service community, industry, higher education, research bodies, patients and the wider public to work in partnership.

The AHSN Network was established by NHS England in 2013, and we also receive support from NHS Improvement and the Office of Life Sciences.

We are often referred to as the ‘innovation arm of the NHS’ and our mission is to support the adoption and spread of innovations in healthcare for the benefit of patients and the wider NHS, and drive the region’s economic growth.

Part of work is about transforming services and systems in healthcare, improving the way things are done and part of it is about stimulating innovation and helping the NHS accept and adopt innovation.

We work with our health service members to understand the areas of their work that would benefit from innovation, and we work with innovators, SMEs and others to develop innovations that are ready for adoption.

Q: What made you decide to join the Future Space community?

We already have a base in central Bristol near the Bristol Royal Infirmary, but we also wanted to have a more commercial setting too, where we could immerse ourselves in an entrepreneurial culture and be more visible to SMEs looking to improve healthcare.

Future Space – part of the University’s Enterprise Zone, alongside Bristol Robotics Laboratory and the Health Tech Hub, as well as its community of start-ups covering technology and health tech businesses – was the perfect choice, giving us great access to an incredible mix of different organisations.

Innovation is at the heart of the work we do, so being so close to new, cutting-edge companies has already led to partnerships and joint initiatives.

Q: What benefits do you offer to innovators?

Support is varied and very much depends on the specific needs of innovators and start-up firms.

We usually start with an initial phone call to discuss innovation, ideas and needs and how West of England AHSN could help. This could be making an introduction to an expert in a specific field for advice, providing direction on relevant training resources, funding advice, right through to supporting real world evaluations and business case development.

It’s not only start-ups that we work with. We also support mature companies which have a brand-new idea and West of England AHSN works with them in the same way as newer companies because innovation begins at the same level.

We have four levels of support depending on requirements. Level One focuses on signposting and the use of our social media platform hyvr which was designed to foster collaboration and the sharing of ideas which in turn facilitates connections with potential end users, patients and clinicians.

The second level of support may include meeting with directors or clinicians to gain practical business support. Level Three offers programmes such as the Health Tech Accelerator Programme (HTAP) which includes 12 hours’ fully funded business support which may include IT infrastructure help, economic guidance, business plan development or interaction with parts of the NHS.

Level Four includes funding to create and opportunities for companies to work with the West of England AHSNs member organisations to evaluate and develop a promising new innovation.

Q: What are you looking to achieve by being at Future Space?

We want to meet as many innovators as possible; SMEs and clinicians with a great idea and researchers who are exploring something that’s never been looked at before. Being based at Future Space means we are well positioned to bring all sorts of different people together for the benefit of the region’s healthcare community.

Q: What should someone do if they want to know more?

Come and see us and have a chat! We’re keen to expand our network and find out what’s going on in the life sciences sector.

Find us in office 28 in Future Space, next to the café. Or you can contact us at innovation@weahsn.net.

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