Dr Nicola Hutchinson, Chief Executive Officer at the Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria discusses the value of collaboration and tapping into the region’s world-leading health expertise to support and accelerate innovation.

The Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria (AHSN NENC) is firmly embedded within the regional health and care sector. Over the last 10 years we have supported the development, spread and adoption of hundreds of innovations.

We act as part of the interface between health and social care, industry, and academia supporting innovators to navigate the innovation landscape through the Innovation Pathway. The Pathway, which draws upon the expertise of regional partners across the health ecosystem, breaks down the innovation journey and offers bespoke support to innovators at every stage, from ideation to adoption.

As a result of the pivotal role that the AHSN NENC plays within the local ecosystem, I was heavily involved in the application process to secure the designation of Newcastle Health Innovation Partners (NHIP) as an Academic Health Science Centre (AHSC) back in 2020, and as a result I am deeply invested in its growth and success.

At the heart of its vision was to create a cohesive environment for partners to collaborate on world-class research, education and clinical practice to improve health outcomes, support the reduction of health inequalities, and drive economic growth.

This aligns perfectly with the work of the AHSN NENC and has allowed us to impart knowledge and provide invaluable guidance as NHIP has grown within the region.

Over the last three years, NHIP has found its space within the region’s health ecosystem and we’re delighted to have played a supporting role in that, along with the other founding partners.

NHIP is, and will continue to be, a pivotal partner in the regional innovation infrastructure and has pledged to support the successful operationalisation of the Innovation Pathway alongside other regional partners, with a particular focus upon translational research and early-stage innovations, as well as supporting us with evaluation.

We are seeing more and more partnerships developing and are starting to see the impact of these collaborations. A stand out for me was securing £1.4 million investment for the North East Innovation Lab to continue work on assessing and evaluating the next generation of diagnostic tests. The Lab, which is part of Newcastle Hospitals, received the funding from the Accelerated Access Collaborative, which the AHSN NENC helps to deliver regionally. This was a prime example of what can be achieved through working collaboratively with a range of partners across the region.

There’s still a lot more for us to achieve across the NHIP partnership and I’m excited to see what the next two years brings. I have no doubt that our shared commitment to improving health, supporting the reduction of health inequalities, and boosting the regional economy will keep the momentum going.

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