Dr Claire Rosten recently joined Health Innovation KSS as Innovation Manager following a 15-year career with the NIHR Research Design Service South East and as a Principal Research Fellow at the University of Brighton. She is a clinical research psychologist and health research methodologist, passionate about supporting innovation to improve people’s lives. In this blog, Claire share’s her top tips for innovators, focussing in on how to access support through the National Institute for Health and Care Research.

Innovators often work at speed, scaling quickly on limited resources to get their innovations to market. However, the speed at which technologies are developed is not always matched by the speed at which spread and adoption can occur – especially not if you’re innovating for the health and social care systems. This is not to say that innovating in this space is not welcome – quite the contrary! – but rather that healthcare innovators must demonstrate the effectiveness and impact of their innovations before they can have adoption at scale in the NHS.

At Health Innovation KSS, we work with innovators ‘bridging the gap’ between industry and the health and social care systems. This is a vitally important role to accelerate the adoption of well-evidenced innovations that will improve outcomes for both service users and health care professionals. We frequently support innovators to access funding to help demonstrate that your innovation can, and will, lead to this improvement. Often this will involve the need to conduct research studies or real-world evaluations from which published evidence of the beneficial outcomes of your innovation’s use in practice can be produced.

Where to look for support

Being able to demonstrate the clinical effectiveness and impact of your innovation is a vital step in the pathway to its successful adoption by the NHS, but this can be a resource-intensive process. There are a variety of sources that offer this kind of funding, such as Innovate UK, SBRI Healthcare and UKRI, however the one on which I want to focus is the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR).

The NIHR offers a wide range of programmes for research and development aimed at improving outcomes for users of our health, public health and social care systems. As you can see, there are a whole host of funding programmes on offer, each with its own specific remit and areas of interest. I won’t go into the myriad of details of each distinct programme; suffice to say that there are opportunities for pretty much anything you may want to do. One programme worth highlighting here is Invention for Innovation (i4i) – the main innovator-focused programme, which has different funding streams depending on the stage of development of your innovation. However, any of the funding programmes may be of interest to you and we can help guide you to the one that may be the best fit for your innovation.

How to build a successful application

Any funding application needs to be viewed, at least in part, through a tactical lens and understanding your target funder is an important part of these tactics. For example, the NIHR is a funder that puts users of the NHS and social care systems at the heart of everything that they fund. So, when thinking about the development and evaluation of your innovation, it is important to consider things from the end user’s perspective. This sounds obvious – after all, what else is health innovation about if not patients? – but it is something far too often missed. It’s easy to get tied up in the technical details of your product when writing a grant application and, amongst this detail, the patient can get lost.

One of my top tips to address this for innovation is to flip your focus for the grant application: position the patient at the heart of your application rather than your innovation. Focus on the problem you will address and how you will build it with them. Consider their lived experience and their pathway through the NHS. Where do they go and with which professionals do they interact? Knowing this detail will help you highlight the problems they face and allow you to demonstrate how much better things could be for both the person and the system were these problems overcome. Then is the time to introduce your innovation – something with real potential to solve these problems. You should then show how and where your innovation fits into the patient’s journey and how it may be able to make things better, easier, faster, or more successful for them.

Once you have the patient at the centre of the way you characterise your innovation, designing the research to evidence its effectiveness will be both easier and more likely to be funded. And you will be a big step closer to seeing your innovation in use and improving people’s lives.

Health Innovation KSS has a wealth of experience helping innovators secure UK government and EU funding, our expertise can help you place the pateint and equitable access at the heart of your application. If you’d like to access HIKSS support and be considered for our enhanced programme of support, please get in touch with our team. kssahsn.bridgingthegap@nhs.net