It has often been said that innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum – that no-one has the key to unlocking significant change on their own.

Big ideas require big thinkers, yes, but they also require a culture that actively fosters innovation and access to partners who know how to deliver it. The reinvigorated InnoScot Health could not agree more. 

Last month, it celebrated 20 years of working in partnership with NHS Scotland to inspire, accelerate, and commercialise impactful healthcare innovations.

Formerly Scottish Health Innovations Ltd (SHIL), InnoScot Health’s milestone anniversary has been marked by the ever-evolving organisation with a reinvigorated modern identity and refreshed outlook.

In aiming to encourage new ideas from anyone within NHS Scotland’s 160,000 staff, complement, and ultimately get the best innovations in front of patients, InnoScot Health has launched a more accessible website presence and digital offering to inspire even more ground-breaking ideas from workforce innovators – be they big or small, simple or complex.

This move reflects the ever-greater importance of healthcare innovation against the backdrop of Covid-19, new ways of working, climate change, and the challenges which each present to global health.

The pioneering organisation continues to hold a unique and important role in encouraging new ideas from health and social care staff. 

Since its formation in 2002, it has developed a deep well of experience in bringing cost efficient, lifesaving ideas into NHS Scotland thanks to funding support from the Scottish Government.

In doing so, it has effectively become the technology transfer arm of the National Health Service.

Indeed, over the last 20 years, InnoScot Health has evaluated more than 2,000 ideas, successfully accelerating a range of medical devices, products, and technologies for use in hospitals, care homes, and on-scene emergency settings, in Scotland and across the globe. 

However, it requires a great deal of expertise and management on InnoScot Health’s part to whittle down so many pitches to marketable, viable technologies for the health service. 

Once it takes on an innovation, the team works on protecting intellectual property, product development and prototyping, as well as identifying private sector partners and marketing strategies. 

Benefiting patient care is the primary objective of InnoScot Health. However, a secondary objective is aiming to generate income – usually split between the inventor, the department which employs them, and the local health board, thereby generating a meaningful return for the NHS. 

This commercially minded approach has led to seven new companies being formed, more than 250 intellectual property protections, and 25 commercial licence deals.

Some of the organisation’s notable success stories have included Touch Bionics – a provider of world-leading prosthetic technologies designed to achieve positive outcomes for people with upper limb deficiencies – and also the first spin-out of InnoScot Health as it began working in partnership with everyone from SMEs to global multinationals.

InnoScot Health has also honed “prism” glasses which help rehabilitate patients recovering from limb amputations, and pre-packed “SCRAM” bags which help to deliver faster airway management in first responder settings. 

The organisation has further played an important role in responding to Covid-19 with dedicated innovation calls designed to draw out fresh ideas from health and social care staff. 

A key example of this has been the organisation’s work with NHS Tayside and Scottish-based outdoor clothing specialist Keela International in creating the SARUS-CPR hood. 

A small, lightweight device made from transparent fabric, the SARUS hood creates a barrier between the patient and the individual performing resuscitation, reducing the risk of contamination and infection from bacteria and viruses such as Covid-19. 

By sharing online such success stories of products, spin-out companies, and the lives transformed by those innovations, InnoScot Health has created an inspiring, streamlined web portal. 

It considers this vital to encouraging breakthrough thinking at all levels and quicker sharing of ideas for the ongoing improvement and transformation of healthcare at a highly challenging time of long waiting lists, backlogs, and staff shortages.

Placing the tackling of those issues front of mind, and as part of the educational strategy of the new website, the updated content has been split into three main groups – Ideas, Expertise, and Impact.

Ideas offers a simple online submission form for new innovations and details active innovation calls, including current calls on sustainability, frailty, and ophthalmology. 

Expertise provides information on InnoScot Health’s specialist fields, including intellectual property, regulatory advice, funding and investment, product development and commercialisation. 

Reflecting the digital environment in which many now operate, the website also makes it easier than ever to engage with InnoScot Health’s experts thanks to online consultation bookings, providing access to help and advice when in-person meetings remain limited.

Finally, Impact tells the story of InnoScot Health across the past 20 years and the role it has played in bringing fresh ideas into the healthcare system.

Ideas originating within NHS Scotland are transforming lives, creating jobs, attracting investment, and showcasing Scotland as a truly entrepreneurial nation, and InnoScot Health is inspiring further growth and scale in those key areas.

That includes the organisation’s recent first-for-Scotland partnership with the Digital Health and Care Institute to embed validated evidence in digital tools and systems in daily use by health and social care staff.

InnoScot Health has built a reputation for working closely with manufacturers, partners, investors, universities – it recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Heriot-Watt University’s Medical Device Manufacturing Centre – and innovation centres, another vital component in meeting fresh global challenges and co-designing state-of-the-art solutions.

Fundamentally, however, the 20th anniversary will celebrate the wealth of talent and expertise across health and social care. 

InnoScot Health is part of an exciting, ever-broadening innovation network that is strengthening and scaling up Scotland’s activities and capitalising on its potential to solve real problems while also improving the quality, efficiency and sustainability of healthcare. 

Executive chair of InnoScot Health, Graham Watson says: “We have been working with NHS teams for 20 years, resulting in a range of successful products and spin-outs which have made a real difference. 

“As we work towards NHS recovery, capitalise on new ways of working, and maximise fresh technologies, we need to tap into first-hand knowledge by drawing out the best ideas from the talented and diverse NHS workforce we have here in Scotland.”

He adds that inspiration can strike at all levels of NHS Scotland – whether it is much-needed, timely solutions to new problems, responding to long-standing bugbears, or making useful adaptations to existing methods.

“Great innovations can come from anywhere, but they need to be identified, encouraged, and developed. It is therefore vital that senior leaders in the health sector understand the support and expertise that we offer, as well as our ability to scale up the best ideas, in turn positively impacting the wider Scottish economy.”

Meaningfully developing NHS-led innovation in the current climate will have its challenges, particularly against the backdrop of a Covid recovery plan, but innovation has never been more important and InnoScot Health is confident in its ability to help overcome those barriers through expertise, experience, and productive, collaborative partnerships. 

Partner Content in association with InnoScot Health