We have just published the 2019/2020 results of our company surveys and I think I speak for everyone in the AHSN Network when I say the results have massively exceeded our expectations.

It was hard work getting the data collated, both for all the people involved in the Network, and of course the companies responding.  So, was all the effort worth it?

I would say it was, but I am probably biased, it’s maybe best for you to judge for yourselves – here are the key stats:

If you compare it to last year’s results, the amount of investment leveraged has doubled, plus the amount of jobs created and protected, meaningful interactions and strategic partnerships have all increased. We estimate that around 40-50% of the companies we work with responded, so this is a conservative estimate of the real story. Based on the fact we get £13m annual funding from the Office of Life Sciences (OLS), it is a great return on investment.

Once a year, we get this opportunity to showcase our positive contribution to ‘UK PLC.’ The AHSN Network is made up of 15 regional organisations, and together we have a joint responsibility to support economic growth by working with innovators who would like to access the NHS. The AHSNs collectively are commissioned by the OLS to deliver the Innovation Exchange, a vast suite of activity that we carry out to support innovators in the sector.

The great thing about having created a national database was that we were able to populate a tracker and were able to record which companies had been surveyed and the responses, this might sound very basic, and it is, but that was the beauty of it. Using this, we avoided duplication of effort throughout the AHSNs, it certainly saved us a lot of hassle and frustration! If you work in a complex organisation like ours, I would certainly be willing to share some best practice from having gone through this process – we identified some improvements for next time but overall it worked really well.

How have we got good results?

I’ve been doing some thinking about how this has been achieved, and for me, the key element is that we work together REALLY WELL as a collective; we share information, intelligence, promising innovations and standardise (as much as possible) our approach to supporting companies.

Each AHSN has a different set up as we are principally there to help our local health and care systems, so we need to flex for local needs and offer the right expertise, but at the same time act as a national unit. It is fantastic to see that what we’ve been doing is actually working!

Our engagement with companies and NHS Innovators covers all technology readiness levels, and our aim has been to create an environment that can support development along what we call the ‘Innovation Pathway’.

The support we offer is unique to each innovator, because one size never fits all – innovators could come with an early stage idea, a product ready for market or anything in between. We have to have a broad spectrum of knowledge and understand the ecosystem that we have in our region or nationally to support those needs.

We sit outside of the NHS and Academia, and therefore we are also able to act as an ‘honest broker’. This allows us to add real value that delivers on our commissioners’ key requirements of investment leveraged, jobs created and jobs safeguarded.

I think these are the stand out things for me.

This year has provided a significant challenge for the whole system, but it has been interesting to watch the speeding up of the digital revolution in the NHS. For example, creating an environment for home grown PPE manufacturing has encouraged new types of innovation in our sector.

AHSNs have had to adapt, evolve and where requested provide technologies ready for adoption and spread to support the pandemic. Whilst some companies sadly will not survive, others have pivoted, evolved or been created in response to these unusual circumstances.

Finally, I want to say a huge thanks from us to all of the companies who took the time to respond to the survey and give us this really useful data, especially in amongst all of the other pressures this year. It’s been brilliant for us all to see how well you are performing and what the overall story looks like.

We are already starting to plan for the 2020/21 company survey. We will no doubt roll-out the tracker again, a revitalised plan to help capture more data, and hopefully the impact will be just as prolific as it has been this year!

Find out more about how the AHSN Network has been instrumental in generating £500 million of investment inward investment for our nation during the past two years (2018- 2020).