Scottish Health Innovations Ltd’s bold five-year plan aims to optimise true potential of skills and expertise

We continue to live in exceptionally challenging times – but, of course, with challenges also come opportunities.

While the Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly stretched health-care services to their limit, it has also globally inspired innovation at unprecedented speed thanks to an incredible spirit of collaboration focussed on solving real world problems and saving lives.

How we continue to drive in-novation, stimulate transformation and emerge stronger are vital areas of focus – and the impetus for the bold new five-year strategy of Scottish Health Innovations Ltd (SHIL) – but this goes beyond Covid-19.

Modern health requirements now demand an entirely different approach to care – people are living longer, lifestyles are changing, and mental health is considered just as important as physical health.

At the same time, medical advances continue to tackle a range of increasingly complex health issues, and the acceleration of genomic and personalised medicine provides opportunity for more targeted treatments.

Digital health has also grown exponentially, offering new approaches to the way care is organised, delivered and monitored; and technology has, and continues to, transform how individuals and organisations engage with and between each other.

Despite this rapidly changing world, the importance of promoting and supporting healthcare innovation has never been clearer; and SHIL has a critical role to play as we look to the future.

Over the last two decades, we have worked in close partnership with, and continually evolved to meet the needs of the NHS in Scotland. We hold a unique and valued position in protecting and supporting NHS-initiated and NHS-supported ideas; but this pivotal moment in health and social care presented an appropriate time to reflect, consider progress and next steps.

An extensive consultation exercise with valuable input from stakeholders across the innovation community, combined with the expertise and ambition of the team at SHIL, has led to a bold new strategy to 2026.

It presents a clear vision for an entrepreneurial Scotland where healthcare innovation thrives. Our role remains to inspire, accelerate, and commercialise impactful healthcare innovations for health, economic and social benefit.

A solid track record exists al-ready. Over 2,000 innovative ideas have been submitted to SHIL by healthcare professionals across the spectrum of disease and medical backgrounds. A successful SHIL-supported portfolio of medical devices, products and technologies is in use internationally across hospital and care settings.

We have formed seven new spin-out companies, negotiated 25 commercial license deals with companies both in the UK and internationally, and protected the intellectual property, trademark, copyright and design rights for more than 250 NHS inventions.

SHIL has helped hone a wide range of highly effective devices such as the RhinoPinch nasal clip for stopping nose bleeds, and SCRAM – a portfolio of emergency airway bags which provide a structured approach to airway management in remote locations, as well as innovations such as the SARUS resuscitation hood, inspired by those working in the front line of treating Covid-19 patients. Creating jobs and attracting investment to Scotland is also evident in the growing success of SHIL-supported spin-outs.

Aurum Biosciences, which has developed novel oxygen carriers and proprietary software for use with MRI, initially for treating and diagnosing acute ischaemic stroke; and Clear Surgical, which has developed a portfolio of innovative surgical devices, have both secured significant additional investment to support growth and ambitious development plans.

This evident success, combined with the longevity of SHIL, is testament to the strength of the organisation, which lies in bringing specialist skill sets together to complement clinical knowledge and ambition; working together to unlock the true collective potential of Scotland’s healthcare innovation opportunity.

Our new five-year strategy leverages and extends this vast experience. It is focused primarily on helping shape a highly adaptive, innovative NHS, while recognising that strong partner-ships forged with academic institutions, funders, entrepreneurs and industrial partners are vital in supporting our mission.

Set around four strategic commitments, and fully aligned with Scotland’s National Performance Framework and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, it recognises the unique strengths of SHIL, which provide the foundation for collaborative growth.

Firstly as a national organisation, SHIL is extremely well connected. Embedded within local NHS research and development teams, national oversight combines with targeted health board engagement and a strong digital presence.

This not only provides local insight and intelligence, but also cultivates strong, trusted relationships. These help to position SHIL as an integral player within new, and emerging, innovation structures, such as regional innovation hubs which are leading some excellent, and really important work, to test innovative solutions in real world environments. This connected, collaborative community is a central theme through-out the SHIL strategy.

Secondly, the trusted, high-quality advice provided by SHIL, encompassing areas that include intellectual property, medical de-vice regulation, funding, product development and commercialisation, is widely recognised for its importance. Likewise, clinical and commercial input is needed to support Scotland’s future healthcare innovation priorities.

For SHIL, harnessing expertise for optimal innovation means we can maximise what is immediately available to us from the vast talent pool working every day across the NHS, but also consider the new doors that can open when we reach out to share knowledge and collaborate successfully.

Thirdly, while SHIL’s proven ability to uncover transformational ideas from health and social care professionals, accelerate the most promising ideas and launch successfully an ever-expanding portfolio is evident, it is also recognised that more work is needed across the sector to minimise all barriers – systemic, financial or otherwise – to ensure innovations of substance and scale can be expedited onto the market. By supporting and encouraging an open and receptive environment to innovations originating across Scotland, we can accelerate a better healthcare future.

And finally, whilst healthcare innovations must deliver benefit to the NHS and its patient population; to deliver real value from healthcare innovation we must focus not just on health, but social and economic benefits too, helping to spotlight the significance of health innovation within the wider entrepreneurial vision for Scotland.

In a nutshell, it is about unifying the right skills, expertise, and ambition to optimise our true potential across Scotland and support faster adoption at scale of transformational healthcare innovations. Fundamentally, we believe that innovation is an empowering force for good. Ground-breaking ideas have the power to significantly improve health and social care for all, while supporting an ambitious, entrepreneurial, forward-thinking Scotland.

In developing the strategy, we have offered inspiration for how and why we should be doing things differently, ensuring that we are always in the best possible position to grow and meet new challenges. With that in mind, the delivery of this strategy will be complemented by continuous horizon-scanning and monitoring of performance. The organisation’s size, structure and professional culture is beneficial in this respect – it allows SHIL to be flexible and agile to respond to the demands of an evolving healthcare landscape.

SHIL recognises that ground-breaking innovation cannot be realised in isolation. Only a connected, collaborative health-care innovation community will maximise the true collective potential of Scottish know-how and shape the future of healthcare for optimum patient benefit. We believe our new strategy allows us to work together in an effective ecosystem with NHS, academia, industry, entrepreneurs, and funders to encourage innovation and entrepreneurism across all areas of health.