ABHI Membership

ABHI at 30 Guest Blogs. An Academic Health Science Network Perspective

I recently completed my fifth year working as the West Midlands Academic Health Science Network’s (WMAHSN) Commercial Director; before that, I spent 11 years as the Chair of the industry association Medilink UK and the CEO of Medilink West Midlands. This means that I have had the pleasure of working with and alongside the ABHI for the last 16 years, witnessing its tremendous industrial advocacy and leadership for more than half its lifespan.

This gives me a somewhat unique insight into the development and delivery of the fifteen AHSNs and how they are impacting upon medical and health technology industries. In my industry association role, I worked alongside ABHI leaders and members promoting and pushing UK innovation towards the National Health Service. An NHS which according to the Wanless report (DH_066213) was considered to be in a global context a “slow and late adopter of innovation”.

In 2012/13 – as a response to the Innovation Health and Wealth report (DH_131299) – AHSNs were created as an important link to both the Wanless challenge of adopting innovative technology at scale and pace and the economic growth challenge the country was facing at the time. AHSNs were the output of a collaboration process between the NHS, academia and industry, with each national and regional collaborator envisaging a differently nuanced outcome from the activity of the AHSN.

I saw a great opportunity within AHSNs for taking “time and cost” out of the innovation adoption process for industry at the same time as delivering the quality of healthcare I would expect as a potential user of the NHS. I considered this to be such a great opportunity that I decided to take a Commercial Director role within the West Midland AHSN to try to create an environment within the NHS where we could deliver on both of those opportunities.

Looking back, I would have to admit I had underestimated the scale and complexity of the task AHSNs had been set; and over the last five years my perception of the barriers to adopting innovation has greatly changed. In my time in the NHS I have worked with some of the most innovative and entrepreneurial people I have ever met: clinical staff and managers who are open and receptive to both systems change and new technology, mirroring the drive and enthusiasm I had previously been part of in my time with industry. However, often those clinicians and managers are working under the greatest structural pressure, created by a whole series of factors not always within their control. So, are we, as AHSNs, breaking down the barriers? I would have to say yes, but slowly because the scale of the task is so large and the window of opportunity to introduce change through innovative technologies is often so small. The evolution of Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships and Integrated Care Systems are opening up new opportunities for industry to work together with the NHS.

Looking ahead our challenge as an AHSN is to work more intensively at a local and national level with industry on truly transformational services and technologies.

Tony Davis, Commercial Director, West Midlands Academic Health Science Network