The NHS Innovation Accelerator – or NIA – is a national NHS accelerator supporting dedicated individuals (‘Fellows’) to scale their high impact, evidence-based innovations across the NHS and wider healthcare system.
The NIA is an NHS England initiative delivered in partnership with England’s 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs). It was launched in July 2015 to support delivery of the Five Year Forward View, and aims to:
The NIA fulfils four critical roles:
1. Solution identification: Go-to place for the NHS to find nationally endorsed solutions for critical challenges and top priorities for NHS staff and patients.
2. Supporting national spread: NIA innovations are already being used in the NHS or elsewhere, have a robust evidence base, and have been rigorously selected.
3. Real-world knowledge sharing: Capturing insight, learning and expertise on how to spread new solutions across the NHS in England.
4. Unlocking barriers nationally: Using real-world examples to highlight barriers to innovation spread and inform national policy change.
The NIA supports the spread of high impact innovations for patient and NHS benefit. It is delivered in partnership with all 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs), and will continue to be supported as part of AHSN relicensing announced in June 2018.
The NIA aligns with and contributes to AHSN delivery on a local level and as a national network as follows:
Economic growth and innovation exchanges
NIA Fellows contribute to AHSN national targets for economic growth, including investment leveraged, exports and number of jobs created. Their respective products, devices and technologies undertake a rigorous multi-stage assessment process before being selected to join the NIA, helping to ‘de-risk’ these innovations and provide assurances for local and national Innovation Exchanges.
Breadth of innovations rigorously selected to address local needs and national priorities
The NIA is open to all types of innovation, seeking to identify evidence-based solutions for local or national spread. E.g. platforms to support medicines optimisation, patient safety devices, genomics and diagnostics, medtech, digital, AI, new care models and pathways.
Research on NIA innovations and to understand adoption and spread
The NIA’s evaluation stream is helping to broker real-world validation using insight, learning and experience of the Fellows and adoption sites. Year one research (2015/16) evidenced some of the common conditions for success in innovation scaling, whilst the year three evaluation (2017/18) will examine how NHS sites successfully take up NIA innovations for greater patient and staff benefit.
Fellows are also supported to strengthen their existing evidence base through links with the AHSNs, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), and National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) infrastructure (including Collaborations for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care – CLAHRCs), building an understanding of what research and evidence is most useful to de-risk and spread their innovation.
Accelerating spread through integration with other national programmes
The NIA supports selected innovations to be ready for acceptance onto relevant national initiatives. This includes evidence refinement, business model development and implementation toolkits. Real-world insights on patient and clinical interest, barriers to uptake, impact, geographical diversity, etc., captured through the NIA, can be shared with national programmes to help de-risk their selection and support processes.
Unlike other health accelerators, the NIA offers a dual focus on both personal development for individuals, and bespoke support to spread an innovation, recognising that both are critical to scaling innovation in the NHS.
The NIA is open to all types of innovation, including digital, medtech, workforce and models of care; and welcomes applicants across a range of professional backgrounds, including clinical, academia, SMEs, large corporates, public-sector, charitable, and not-for-profit organisations.
The NIA does not support start-up or early-stage innovations. It supports mature innovations with an existing evidence base, already being used in the NHS or elsewhere, to spread. In doing so, the NIA captures and shares real-world insight, learning and expertise on how to spread new solutions across the NHS in England.
The NIA is distinct from other initiatives like the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI), the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator and Clinical Entrepreneurs, in that it only supports innovations with an existing evidence base, already being used in the NHS or elsewhere, to spread nationally. The NIA’s unique dual focus offers personal development for individuals and bespoke support to scale an innovation.
The DigitalHealth.London Accelerator and AHSN regional digital health accelerators, work with earlier stage companies, who would benefit from closer working with the NHS in a specific locality, for example, to trial products or build their evidence base. Unlike the NIA, these initiatives focus solely on digital solutions, and aim to support the company as opposed to the individual and innovation.
The SBRI Healthcare programme provides funding to develop innovations that meet the challenges facing the healthcare system that aren’t yet created. SBRI Healthcare provides the funding and the specialist development support to co-create solutions that match NHS needs.
The Clinical Entrepreneur training programme is specifically for clinicians, and is designed to offer opportunities for clinicians to develop their entrepreneurial aspirations during their clinical training period or clinical roles.
To successfully spread innovation in the NHS, our experience has found you need: 1. An inspiring leader who can engage effectively and lead the scaling of a health innovation; 2. A great innovation at the right level of maturity supported by evidence and the right business model1. The NIA’s dual focus on personal development for individuals and bespoke support to spread an innovation recognises that both are critical to scaling in the NHS.
NHS Innovation Accelerator (NIA) Fellows are the exceptional individuals being supported to scale their high impact, evidence-based innovations through the NIA. Each of these Fellows – along with their innovations – have been through a rigorous, competitive selection process before being invited to join the NIA. There are currently 36 Fellows on the NIA. 17 were recruited in year one (2015), eight in year two (2016), and 11 in year three (2017), following successive annual Calls.
Fellows share a passion for learning and scaling innovation for patient benefit. They are committed to sharing their learnings widely via the NIA, and all offer expertise and experience in the adoption, implementation and spread of innovation in the NHS.
They come from a wide range of backgrounds, including clinical, industry and academia. Amongst the mix is an MS nurse consultant, an engineer, a former police officer, a respiratory consultant, a dentist, and even a sleep evangelist!
The NIA cannot offer a guaranteed route to widespread adoption across the NHS.
The ethos of the accelerator is to provide a range of support in response to the needs of each Fellow and the barriers to uptake their innovation faces within the NHS. This includes a bespoke learning programme, mentorship and networking opportunities to equip Fellows with critical knowledge, relationships and skills to scale innovation in the NHS.
Each NIA Fellow is provided with:
At the end of the initial 12 months, each Fellow should have the following in place:
Fellows can access support from the NIA for up to three years, where after they will be given the opportunity to join the NIA’s alumni group.
When the NIA Call opens, applicants are asked to submit an application form detailing information about themselves and their skills, experience and competencies to spread an innovation; as well as their innovation, the problem it addresses, the evidence as to its effectiveness and the strategy for scaling in the NHS.
Application forms are then shortlisted by a minimum of five assessors drawn from a range of perspectives, including clinical, patient, commercial and implementation. Applications will be assessed on the basis of the applicant, the innovation, and confirmation that there is no straightforward nor obvious local mechanism for scaling; in other words, there needs to be a clear reason as to why the applicant needs the support of the NIA.
Once shortlisted, applicants will be invited to a panel interview. At the same time, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) will informally review all shortlisted applications. After the interviews, a final decision panel chaired by Professor Stephen Powis, Medical Director at NHS England and Chair of the NIA Programme Board, will assess the recommendations from the assessment process (application, NICE review and interview) to agree which Fellows will be offered a conditional place on the NIA.
At this stage, two references will be taken up for each Fellow – one of whom needs to be a senior representative from your employing organisation. We will also undertake a period of due diligence, and request – where relevant – two years of annual accounts, a list of company directors and any published annual report. All Fellows will be asked to sign an agreement with UCLPartners – hosts for the NIA – before being formally announced as an NIA Fellow (example contract available on application page of NIA website). Applicants should check that they and their employing organisation would be happy to sign this contract before applying.
An application does not need the support of an AHSN prior to submitting an application form. However, you may wish to engage your local AHSN to discuss your application and to seek advice on your scaling plans before submitting your application.
The annual Call themes are agreed by the NIA Programme Board following extensive national engagement with NHS stakeholders, patients, Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) and NHS England, according to local and national priorities.
In the past, Call themes have included:
The NIA will launch its next international Call on 5th September 2018, seeking exceptional individuals with high impact, evidence-based innovations which address clear needs and challenges within England’s NHS.
No. Applicants from across the UK and overseas are encouraged to apply. Applicants should note the mandatory requirement to attend the NIA launch, summit and quarterly events in person.
The NIA is for innovations that are both ready to scale across the NHS in England, and that have the necessary resources and team to scale across England over a 12-month period and beyond. Therefore, the NIA is looking to recruit SMEs and larger organisations, rather than start-ups.
Fellows need to be able to commit two days per week to scaling their innovation as part of the NIA. These two days per week will include attendance at quarterly events, working up and implementing sprint plans, providing updates to the NIA team, meeting mentors and AHSNs, etc.
For some Fellows, this will be part of their normal jobs – where scaling their innovation is their everyday business. For others, particularly those who are based in clinical roles, it might mean a different set of tasks from the day to day. This could range from building a compelling business case for intended purchasers, developing and executing a stakeholder engagement and marketing plan, building a network, developing a health economic case, presenting to target purchasers, and so on.
We would expect the two days per week will vary for each Fellow depending on the type of innovation and your strategy for scaling.
Our expert, high-profile Mentors represent a broad skills base. Their support is predominantly in the form of advice, guidance and networking. Our pool of Mentors is regularly expanded to support the experiences and identified needs of the Fellows.
The NIA core team, based at UCLPartners, provides coordination, administration and communications support for the Accelerator. This includes:
The bar for Fellows and innovations is high. All Fellows are required to demonstrate full participation in the NIA, with a consequence of exiting the programme if requirements are not met. Expectations of Fellows are detailed in the Call for Applications and the contract that Fellows are required to sign, along with their organisations, to formally join the NIA. As part of this commitment, Fellows agree to spend two days per week on the NIA; are required to attend the launch and four quarterly events; and submit progress reports. At the start of the NIA, they will develop and agree a scaling plan with the NIA core team. As part of this, Fellows agree a minimum set of activities they will deliver during the first 12 months.
Fellows may be asked to leave the NIA in the event that they:
The Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) are uniquely placed to identify and spread health innovation at pace and scale; driving the adoption and spread of innovative ideas and technologies across large populations. There are 15 across the country and these should be your first port of call for support with your innovation. Visit www.ahsnnetwork.com to identify your local AHSN.
You can be the inventor of your innovation, the lead for it within your organisation or simply the representative of an innovation you find compelling, and as such, wish to scale it across the NHS.
Applicants, nationally and internationally, can be clinicians; academics; from a public-sector, charitable or not-for-profit organisation; from a small or medium-sized enterprise (SME); from a large corporate.
You should apply if:
The Call for Applications document provides a useful starting point for learning more about the NIA. You should also read the Guide for Applicants and review the wording of the contract, which both you and your organisation will need to sign should you be invited to join the NIA.
Once you are assured that you and your innovation meet the criteria specified, that you can commit to the time requirements – including attendance at all quarterly events – and that you have the written support of your employing organisation, you will need to complete the application form by midnight, Wednesday 24th October 2018.
Part of the application includes a one-minute ‘elevator pitch’. You will need to develop a one-minute ‘elevator pitch’ video and insert a link to this pitch on your application form (guidance as to how to film your elevator pitch and upload will be made available).
Up to 12 individuals will be selected to join the NIA in its fourth year. These individuals will join the existing Fellows from the 2016 and 2017 cohorts.
The NIA focusses on the development and support of individuals, and therefore all applications must include a sole named applicant.
NIA opens for applications
‘Meet the NIA’ information event (Manchester)
‘Meet the NIA’ information event (London)
‘Meet the NIA’ information event (Southampton)
‘Meet the NIA’ information event (County Durham)
Application form assessment
Invitation to interviews
Decision making panel
Outcomes communicated to applicants
Due diligence and contracting
Quarterly events (Fellows’ attendance mandatory)
5th September 2018
5th September 2018
17th September 2018
19th September 2018
20th September 2018
Midnight on 24th October 2018
25th October - 1st November 2018
3rd November - 3rd December 2018
14th December 2018
17th December 2018
8th/9th/11th January 2019
23rd January 2019
8th February 2019
5th March 2019
24th April 2019/3rd July 2019/16th October 2019/29th January 2020
Face-to-face panel interviews will take place in London on the 8th, 9th, 11th January 2019. For international candidates who are unable to travel, Skype interviews will be made available.
If you have read all the published documents (available from 5th September) but still have questions, there are a number of online Q&A sessions you can join to find out more.
The weekly online Q&A is open to anyone without prior registration. These interactive sessions will provide detailed information about the application process and the NIA. Slides will be made available and there will be an opportunity for Q&A with the NIA Core Team.
Wednesday 12th September
Friday 21st September
Thursday 27th September
Tuesday 2nd October
Wednesday 10th October
Monday 15th October
Tuesday 23rd October
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‘Meet the NIA’ information events are face-to-face sessions designed to:
Places are limited. With the exception of the ‘Meet the NIA’ information event being hosted at NHS Expo on 5th September, you must register to attend.
Wednesday 5th September
Monday 17th September
Wednesday 19th September
Thursday 20th September
Manchester: NHS Expo Manchester Central M2 3GX
London: UCLPartners 170 Tottenham Court Road W1T 7HA
Southampton: Best Western Chilworth Manor Hotel SO16 7PT
County Durham: The Durham Centre Belmont Industrial Estate DH1 1TN
The NIA year is structured around a series of four 12-week sprints, which support delivery of your overall scaling ambition. At the beginning of each 12-week sprint, you will be asked to set out a plan for the coming 12 weeks, including the type of support you need from the NIA. As part of this, you can request to use your bursary, but you will need to clearly show how it supports delivery of the 12-week sprint. You need to receive written agreement from the NIA team before claiming your bursary.
Each year four Fellow will have access to a bursary of £20,000. To be eligible to access the bursary, Fellows will need to demonstrate a clear need for this funding within their application form. It will be assumed that large private companies will not seek to access the NIA bursary. The bursary is intended to support the scaling of your innovation and/or your own personal development to support you in your scaling efforts. You can also use your bursary for travel to NIA events.
The uses for the bursary are likely to fall into the following categories:
The bursary cannot be used to cover, for example:
Prior to the formal start of the 4th NIA intake on 1st April 2019, there are a series of sessions during March 2019 designed to give an induction to the NIA and to support Fellows develop robust strategies for scaling in the NHS. Applicants must ensure that they can attend these March dates:
The NHS Innovation Accelerator (NIA) Alumni is the collective group of individuals who have left the NIA having received up to three years’ support from the programme. These individuals are no longer supported by the NIA, but continue to remain engaged, support current Fellows, and share their learning and expertise in spreading innovation with the wider healthcare system.
An NIA Fellow is an individual who is currently being supported by the NIA. An NIA Alumnus is a former Fellow who has left the NIA having accessed up to three years of support offered by the accelerator.
October 2018 marked the end of three years support given to the first 17 Fellows, who joined the NIA when it launched in 2015. These individuals officially left the NIA at the end of October and were invited to join the NIA Alumni.
The Alumni was set up in recognition of Fellows’ appetite and enthusiasm for remaining engaged with the NIA. As former Fellows, NIA Alumni benefit from association with the NIA and its brand; whilst the NIA and its current Fellows continue to benefit from the shared learning and expertise of its Alumni.
The NIA Alumni can access a number of benefits through their continued commitment and engagement, including:
NIA Alumni are asked to commit to:
Individual Alumnus can be contacted via the details on their website profiles.