Richard Stubbs, CEO of Health Innovation Yorkshire and Humber, has become Chair of the Health Innovation Network, the new name for the AHSN Network.

The innovation arm of the NHS, the Network comprises of 15 organisations across England who work collaboratively, both nationally and locally, to deliver spread and adoption of new innovation for the benefit of patients and clinicians.

Mr Stubbs takes on the role just as the Network begins its new five-year licence agreement with its commissioner, NHS England.

The new licence, the third commission the Network has received since its inception in 2013, is a reflection of both the collective achievements of the past decade of the group, including >£450m in economic growth delivered through innovator support, as well as the need for more innovation to deliver health services more effectively.

Mr Stubbs, who will retain his local leadership role, has a wealth of experience in helping to shape the future of the NHS and stimulate economic growth in regional, national and international roles. He is currently a member of the NHS Assembly, an advisor to Healthcare UK, and created the Innovate Awards in 2022 which recognises health innovators across the NHS and industry.  A vocal proponent of tackling health inequalities, some of his recent work has included the importance of diversity within health innovation and the potential to create better population health outcomes by levelling up regional economic growth.

On his new role and the relicence, Richard Stubbs said: “This is a critical and challenging time for the NHS and innovation has a role to play in helping us to deliver services effectively, safely and efficiently, freeing up more clinical time for patient care. World class innovation can be found in all corners of the NHS, but too often the best ideas have not been spread elsewhere. This “adoption” challenge is a collaborative endeavour that requires partners from across the innovation ecosystem, harnessing the full capabilities of new technology and the life sciences industry, to deliver tangible and sustainable improvements for all patients. 

“As a Network we have learnt an incredible amount in the past ten years about what makes health innovation work, and the conditions for success we need to ensure are in place to allow for spread and adoption of new ideas. I look forward to putting this learning into practice alongside colleagues and partners, to help the NHS tackle some of its biggest challenges.” 

Vice Chair of the Network is Dr Phil Jennings, Chief Executive of Health Innovation North West Coast.

Dr Jennings is a GP who practises in Wirral and has a particular interest in cardiology. He has two roles in the Network: he leads the Cardiovascular Clinical Working Group which is designing new programmes of work incorporating innovation across the field of cardiovascular medicine; and he is the lead for the Accelerated Access Collaborative’s Innovation for Healthcare Inequalities Programme.

He said: “We know that innovation will have a significant bearing on the direction the NHS takes. The North West Coast abounds in creativity, as other regions do, but innovative solutions to our challenges can sometimes be frustrated by unforeseen obstacles. 

“We’ve had long experience in our region in overcoming those barriers to adoption and I hope to bring my experience in dealing with those obstacles to the national role.”

Dr Vin Diwaker, Interim Director of Transformation for NHS England, said: “For over 10 years, the NHS has funded the Academic Health Science Networks who have, amongst other functions, played a key role in supporting the uptake of health innovation and economic growth, enabling patients to benefit from earlier diagnosis, more effective treatments, and faster recovery.

“I am delighted to invest in the Network for a further five years and, with a name that better reflects a focus on supporting innovation to flourish in the NHS.

“By investing in the Health Innovation Network, we invest in our patients and our economy and through this partnership we will help introduce more service models, therapies, diagnostics and medical technologies that both improve patient care and reduce pressure on wider services.”

Rosalind Campion, Director of the Office for Life Sciences, said: “Since the Office for Life Sciences first commissioned the AHSNs in 2018, they have been an invaluable resource to the Government as the only regional support structure for the development and adoption of innovation and have not only delivered real growth and resilience for the companies they support, but also £1.8 billion to the wider economy. 

“The UK Life Sciences Sector is internationally recognised – powered by our leadership in innovation, the excellence of our scientific institutions, and the vibrant entrepreneurial community that supports our economy. By supporting the sector, we can drive ever stronger patient impacts and growth. 

“I therefore absolutely welcome the relicensing and renaming to the Health Innovation Network. With the new license, fresh brand and enhanced focus on innovation, the Network will be empowered to act as ever stronger regional and national catalysts of innovation and growth.”

Richard Phillips, Director Strategy, The Association of British HealthTech Industries (ABHI), said: “ABHI has enjoyed a strong and collaborative relationship with the AHSNs since their inception. As they begin this exciting new period as the Health Innovation Network, we are particularly pleased to see a renewed focus on their original intent to be an innovation adoption and spread mechanism for the NHS. We look forward to continuing our partnership together, both in the UK and through our international work, so that more, great HealthTech can reach patients swiftly.” 

Brian Duggan, Strategic Partnerships Policy Director at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), said: “When industry and the NHS collaborate effectively, we can achieve great things for patients. Now that the NHS in England has moved to Integrated Care Systems, the Health Innovation Network has a renewed opportunity to support, strengthen and spread innovation to improve patient care and NHS capacity. Together, we have a major opportunity to tackle new healthcare challenges, address health inequalities, and support the NHS in delivering high-quality care.”  

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