A virtual event was held this week bringing together Scottish and UK Government leaders in a bid to identify the healthcare innovation priorities of tomorrow.

Entitled Healthcare Innovation Live – Maximising The Future of Life Sciences and Healthcare, the free event on 4 March gave clinical leaders a platform to discuss, review, and act on fresh opportunities.

The gathering of the Industry, NHS and Social Care Innovation Network analysed how innovators can be best supported when aiming to transition their ideas into services that can actively benefit patients – a vital focus given the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fresh funding opportunities were shared during the event – chaired by Prof David Crossman, Chief Scientist for Health and Social Care in Scotland – while an ‘Investment for Innovation Ecosystem-Life Sciences, Health and Social Care’ working group was also formed, led by investors and supported by the Scottish Government’s Head of Investment Katrine Feldinger.

The meeting brought together industrial leaders with health and social care professionals and was supported by the Life Science Industry Leadership Group and Scottish Health Industry Partnership.

Prof Crossman said: “The opportunities for businesses to contribute to domestic and global health care have never been more diverse as we continue to move through the pandemic and consider the post-Brexit landscape.

“This virtual event saw UK and Scottish Government leaders, alongside clinical and industry leaders, providing important updates on plans to remobilise and recover the economy with NHS and social care services to the fore.

“It was an opportunity to hear from Scotland’s clinical leaders in innovation on what the NHS and social care need most in 2021/22 and identify where there are opportunities to collaborate.”

The event took place against a period of great change and shifting priorities in NHS. The ability to adapt and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and embrace new ways of working has been crucial over the past year but unblocking barriers to getting innovative solutions into the NHS as quickly as possible is not new. A national network of test beds is already established across Scotland.

This model has helped to produce significant success stories at speed in the shape of a COVID-19 app which allows doctors and nurses to complete a standardised assessment of patients, in turn informing the wider strategy for handling Coronavirus.

Another project is using artificial intelligence to examine mammogram images with the aim of speeding up cancer diagnosis and providing valuable insight into AI-enabled clinical decision support.

Consultant respiratory physician, Dr Chris Carlin, who has been working with industry partners as part of the test bed model, has co-designed and is evaluating an AI-powered digital service to support COPD patient management.

He said: “This event represents an important gathering of innovative, proactive, like-minded individuals who are committed to driving positive change and better care.

“Innovation test beds in particular offer resources, connections, and time – all the hurdles that are usually so difficult to overcome – while transforming research and fresh ideas into routine care.

“Successfully identifying and developing future test bed projects is vital at this time.”