I firmly believe that Scotland’s ability to develop new solutions for healthcare based around informatics, big data and patient stratification is almost unrivalled globally.

There is an incredible amount of enthusiasm matched by expertise across Scotland and motivated by opportunities to transform healthcare delivery.

My frontline role as an emergency medical consultant remains a significant part of what I do, but as West of Scotland test bed lead and clinical director for the newly formed Scottish Health and Industry Partnership (SHIP), I am part of an exciting, ever-broadening innovation ecosystem that is improving the quality, efficiency, and sustainability of healthcare.

The potential is limitless amid a multi-billion pound opportunity for healthcare improvement, and thanks to a pandemic pivoting process – with Covid acting as an accelerator for change – the whole health and social care system is undergoing significant transformation.

There is huge demand for innovative solutions, from point of care biomarker results to implementation of solutions, that address strategic and operational pressures, whether that be preventative care, improved integration of services across primary, community and hospital, or getting timely innovation into patients’ hands to optimise care at home.

While the challenges are significant, so are the possibilities with technological advances such as artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics offering vast innovation potential.

Indeed, key priority areas for SHIP are digital health, AI, and precision medicine with exciting opportunities to work collaboratively.

This matched with Scotland’s vibrant life science sector and strong partnerships across the triple helix of NHS, industry and academia is, I believe, vital to helping our relatively small nation continue to punch above its weight.

This highly collaborative approach, combined with clinical expertise, data, digital capabilities, and physical infrastructure, is enabling the rapid discovery, development and delivery of innovative products, services and devices that meet the demands of NHS Scotland and demonstrate their value.

Critically, this approach also responds to the needs of healthcare systems worldwide by working in partnership with everyone from SMEs to global multinationals.

Building the workforce of tomorrow through universities and innovation centres is another vital component in meeting new challenges and co-designing state-of-the-art solutions.

As test bed lead for the West of Scotland – an initiative which brings together six health boards and individuals from eHealth, clinical care, research and development – I have had the opportunity to help shape the infrastructure and conditions necessary to develop forward-thinking devices, services and solutions with a range of industry and academic partners both UK-wide and beyond.

I have been involved in a range of projects that have focussed on developing AI and ML clinical decision support by embedding a data-driven approach combined with patient co-management into clinical care pathways.

The consistent theme around these test bed projects is the ability to leverage strong partnerships and new collaborations – but we now need to reach further and put Scotland on the global innovation map.

It is all part of an ambitious programme of work across Scotland that encompasses the NHS pandemic recovery plan, but also looks beyond it to growing the life science sector and supporting development of the workforce as well as fresh job creation.

SHIP is central to this, collaborating closely with government departments, NHS boards, integrated joint boards, and innovators to support remobilisation and grow the economy across Scotland.

Thanks to that collaboration, a new Demand Signalling Plan is now providing an updated source of priority areas for Scottish innovation, endorsed by the key leadership decision-making groups, including partners such as the Centre for Sustainable delivery, Health Improvement Scotland, NHS Education for Scotland, and NHS National Services Scotland.

It will support the strategic and operational challenges to the delivery of the NHS Recovery Plan 2021-26, align to the Life Science Vision 2021, and capitalise on opportunities developed through the already successful triple helix approach to collaborations, attracting further investment into Scotland.

SHIP, working with UK and international partner agencies, continues to stimulate innovation within health, social care, and life sciences, particularly through regional innovation test beds that work with networks of consortia within Scotland to target UK-wide funding opportunities, develop innovative products, and contribute to the national innovation pipeline covering research, development and innovation in Scotland.

The potential real-life impact of this is already beginning to be demonstrated across a range of projects.

Thales, a multinational engineering company based in Glasgow, received award recognition after developing a thermal camera solution for detecting potential Covid with integrated imagery processing software, developed and evaluated with clinicians at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital emergency department in Glasgow at the height of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are being offered remote monitoring and supported self-management, reducing hospitalisation and improving patient outcomes, thanks to innovative, collaborative thinking around a digital co-management platform.

This app was made possible through the Dynamic project funded by Innovate UK and Scottish Government, in partnership with Lenus Health, and supported by the West of Scotland Innovation Hub as well as The Digital Health & Care Innovation Centre.

Such projects have provided an opportunity to work with exciting companies to test rapidly whether the solutions they provide are meaningful and allow us to pick out those we think are going to be useful before putting them through their paces.

From the industry point of view, companies are given access to clinicians but also the resources that sit behind the clinicians such as information governance and e-health.

It is effectively a win-win for delivering sustainable change with the health service benefiting from supplementary external knowledge and resources.

Solutions identified for adoption and scale go through all regulatory and procurement processes before being progressed further.

Indeed, what I have seen with companies is that they have often scaled significantly, in turn providing the foundations for access to markets outside of Scotland.

Strengthening Scotland’s innovation activities in health and social care provides a real opportunity to solve problems while improving the quality, efficiency, and sustainability of healthcare.

At the same time, we can support Scotland’s economy by strengthening our life sciences sector, attracting investment, developing large scale innovation projects and supporting the growth of robust businesses.

We are aware of the challenges, particularly against the backdrop of a pandemic, but we are confident in Scotland’s ability to enrich globally health and social care know- how, impact universal health care challenges, and ultimately provide cutting edge solutions where and when they are needed most.

Partner Content in association with Scottish Health Innovations Ltd