2 June, 2010 - 14:32 By Staff Reporter

Dr Anne Blackwood, chief executive, Health Enterprise East

Dr Anne Blackwood, chief executive, Health Enterprise East

Established in 2004, Health Enterprise East (HEE) is the NHS Innovation Hub in the East of England, based at Papworth Hospital.

Backgrounder: Part of a national network of nine NHS Innovation Hubs, HEE provides a broad range of professional IP management services to the NHS Trusts across the six counties of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk to enable staff from all disciplines to identify, evaluate and take forward innovations - both products and services - which can benefit patients. HEE also provides services to commercial companies, facilitating access to NHS clinical, scientific and technical expertise to speed the development, adoption and use of new products and services by the NHS. Dr Anne Blackwood was appointed Chief Executive in January 2010. She joined HEE when it was first established as Innovation Manager before being promoted to Head of Innovation and in February 2009, Chief Operating Officer. Having previously worked for Cambridge Enterprise, the technology transfer office of the University of Cambridge, Anne has over 10 years experience in technology transfer and IP management in the life sciences. She holds a degree in chemistry from Strathclyde University and a PhD in biotechnology from the same University.1. What is the funding model for HEE and is this likely to be the model for the future?For the first few years of the company we were primarily funded via grants from the Department of Health, the Department of Business Innovation & Skills and the East of England Development Agency (EEDA). As the company evolves we are likely to move to more of a self-sustaining model based on selling services to both public and private sector clients.2. How much progress has HEE made since its inception?We have executed over 60 licences and commercialised 36 products to date, matching NHS innovations with manufacturers and distributors from both here in the UK and abroad. Many of these are now on the market and starting to make a difference to patient care. In addition we are now working at a strategic level with NHS East of England, helping them to develop and implement their innovation agenda as the NHS seeks to respond to the on-going challenge of providing high quality care at better value for money.3. How do HEE’s achievements to date match up against expectations at the outset?When I joined the company five years ago I didn’t really know what to expect. This was the first time the NHS had recognised the need for Intellectual Property management in the service, although universities had been active in this area for over a decade. We have been delighted however at both the level of engagement from within the NHS and also the enthusiasm of the medtech sector to enter into meaningful partnerships with the NHS to progress and develop new innovative technologies.4. How important is it for patient care in the future for devices and aids to be inspired by practitioners within healthcare, such as the NHS Trusts?Clinical involvement in the development of new products has always been vital. Increasingly we will see greater involvement of patients and carers in the design of new services too, especially around the management of long-term conditions such as asthma, diabetes and stroke. 5. How enthusiastically or otherwise have East of England NHS Trusts and people working within them engaged with HEE and its ideals?We have had tremendous support from the NHS organisations in the region, evidenced by the fact that over 90 per cent of the NHS Trusts within the East of England are Members of Health Enterprise East - and we hope the others will join soon. The real stars are the innovators, the front line staff who take a real pride in the quality of the service they deliver and want to improve things for their patients. We have just received our 900th innovation disclosure from staff so we must be doing something right!6. Can you name some innovations that have really made a mark - or are likely to - generated from your efforts?We have a number of products on the market already, such as the Papworth BiVent Endotracheal Tube designed to enable rapid and reliable lung isolation in an emergency, a hypodermic needle disposal cabinet for use in public places and a fun card game called Top Grub that helps children to understand the nutritional content of the food that they eat. 

We also have a new tissue ablation device called BETA that we think might help decrease liver tumour recurrence rates which currently stand at 30 per cent. It’s still in development but we have high hopes for it. As you can see we have a really diverse range of ideas coming out of the NHS.7. Are there any gaps in HEE’s CV - ­ things you want to be doing that for some reason are being delayed or frustrated­ or maybe haven’t had time to put into operation. If so, please give examples?As a small organisation we are relatively flexible in responding to customers needs but there are a number of topics of particular interest to us, such as point of care diagnostics and e-health that we can see substantial growth areas for in the health care sector so we are channelling some of our efforts in this direction. Health economics is another area we are expanding our expertise in.8. To what extent have you been able to engage with A) Financers of healthcare innovation ­ the angels, Venture Capital firms or institutions and B) corporate partners in the Life Sciences with the muscle to take raw innovations to mature development and commercial markets?Most of our innovation projects are licenced to existing manufacturers and distributors due to the one-off nature of many of the technologies we see. We are just in the process of closing a seed funding round for our first new company start-up however and we do have another two potential spin-outs in the pipeline for this year so our activity in this area is increasing.9. How important is collaboration between the public and private sectors to optimising commercial opportunities?Collaboration between the public and private sector is vital, especially in the current economic climate. The NHS faces some pretty hard choices in the coming years with demand continuing to outstrip resources. The only way we will be able to meet demand in the future is to change the way we do things which is where innovation comes in. Only by establishing partnerships between all the key stakeholders, clinicians, commissioners, government and industry will the system be able to adapt to enable uptake of innovative new technologies that can help meet demand.10. Looking at HEE’s long-term goals, are we likely to see HEE’s sphere of activities evolve still further and in which directions, perhaps?We see HEE’s role as providing a bridge between the NHS and industry, helping to communicate NHS unmet needs and priorities to industry whilst at the same time helping commercial companies access the NHS expertise they need to develop new products and services for the health care market.

Increasingly we are focussing on the adoption and procurement end of the innovation pathway, since that is where many of the road blocks lie. We’re not short of good ideas here in the East, but getting them adopted into routine clinical practice is no easy task. We hope to play our part in improving this area alongside our NHS and industry partners.

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