By Graham Watson

AT the outset of 2022, we are able to reflect proudly on a health service that has been stretched to its limits but has reacted with speed and precision to an incredibly challenging pandemic.

Undoubtedly, the impact of the pandemic must continue to be met and with added determination – that’s why we need an expansive, forward-thinking mindset right now to move past it, capitalising on Scotland’s status as a truly entrepreneurial nation.

What does that mean in practice? Right now, it is about realising the ability to pivot at pace and scale to deliver innovation that has the NHS recovery plan at its heart.

Despite the challenges, the pandemic offers the opportunity to learn lessons and use them to deliver life-changing innovations to patients.

Over the last year we have had the publication of the Office for Life Sciences (OLS) Vision, outlining ambitions for the sector across the next decade. The Scottish Health Industry Partnership (SHIP) has been established, supporting early-stage innovation and improving the quality, efficiency and sustainability of healthcare.

Attracting investment into Scotland is also vital and the recent Campbell report – a roadmap to investment for health innovation life sciences and healthtech – sets an ambition for Scotland to become Europe’s fastest-growing health innovation life science cluster.

With this in mind, we believe the direction of travel this year is very much towards collaboration, not to mention the vast potential for change through artificial intelligence, cloud technology, virtual reality, and more.

We expect digital healthcare to continue growing, from wearables and remote monitoring to apps and video consultations – a consequence of the pandemic, but also empowering individuals to take control of their own care and strengthening Scotland’s vast preventative care potentiality.

Strong partnerships with initiatives like the Centre for Sustainable Delivery (CfSD), the Digital Health & Care Innovation Centre (DHI), and NHS test beds will play a vital role in supporting national efforts to remobilise, recover, and redesign.

For ourselves at Scottish Health Innovations Ltd (SHIL), it is about harnessing entrepreneurial talent and accelerating impactful healthcare innovations.

We specialise in identifying and developing new ideas to help solve problems and address needs in the NHS and social care, creating jobs and fresh opportunity.

Indeed, as we look positively to the possibilities of what may lie in store this year – our 20th anniversary as an organisation – the enduring qualities of hard work, commitment and adaptability have remained core values.

We have played an important role in the ongoing Covid response – assessing tomorrow’s innovations, providing expert intellectual property and regulatory advice, and encouraging health professionals to submit their ideas through dedicated funding calls.

We continue to identify specific areas of need, including our current sustainability call which recognises the drive to create an environmentally and socially sustainable healthcare service.

It also includes NHS priority areas – frailty for example and the use of technology such as artificial intelligence for predicting and preventing falls.

NHS Scotland must look beyond the pandemic too and that is why organisations like ours are so important in connecting, inspiring, educating and supporting the health innovation community in 2022.

Graham Watson is Executive Chair of Scottish Health Innovations (SHIL)