Greater Manchester’s research and innovation ecosystem showcased to Spanish delegation

The strength of Greater Manchester’s integrated research and innovation system was exhibited during a new international knowledge exchange scheme.

A delegation from Barcelona, Spain, visited Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust’s (MFT) Oxford Road Campus (ORC) on 25 October 2021 as part of the first ever Healthcare-Entrepreneur Exchange Programme (HEEP).

The visit was coordinated by NIHR Clinical Research Network Greater Manchester (CRN GM) and MFT and followed a UK delegation’s visit to the Catalan Health Institute (ICS) earlier in October.

Day-one of the tour introduced the Spanish party, comprising research-active healthcare professionals and innovation specialists from Barcelona’s Hospital Germans Trias, to key stakeholders in the Greater Manchester research and innovation ecosystem.

This included CRN GM and its newly-formed Direct Delivery Team, MFT and the trust’s Diagnostics and Technology Accelerator (DiTA), the Northern Health Science Alliance, Manchester’s inward investment agency MIDAS, Manchester Science Partnerships, Bruntwood SciTech, NorthWest EHealth, and Lucid.

The weeklong tour continued with a trip to Alderley Park, Health Innovation Manchester, and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, the other UK NHS trust involved in the inaugural HEEP initiative.

The exchange was designed to give first-hand insights into each region’s health ecosystem, create a platform for international open innovation to accelerate the creation of novel high-quality projects, and grow the NHS and ICS’ innovation portfolios.

Dr Daniel Moreno, Head of the Innovation Program at Barcelona’s Hospital Germans Trias, helped devise HEEP having lived in Manchester for eight years before moving back to Spain. He said: “Because I had been in Manchester for so long, I know there are many synergies between the two regions and that one could learn so much from the other, but we were not making full use of that. That is why I came up with the project to bring us all together like this, to have this discussion and to see how we can work closely from the healthcare and innovation perspectives.

“I think that the Manchester region is booming. There is a strong relationship between Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, industry  and other stakeholders, which is great to see. There is a lot of openness in the ecosystem here.”

Pau Miñarro, Strategic Project Manager at Hospital Germans Trias, said: “I knew there was a huge innovation and healthcare environment here, but I wasn’t aware it was so big. I have been impressed by how well structured everything is and, physically, how close together the key players are. I am also amazed by how open-minded people are to talk to each other about different projects and to break the silos. I think a major thing that plays a part here is the culture; your mindset is more developed than ours, meaning we are more at the beginning of this journey whereas you are ahead in this sense, in your inter-connectivity.”

Maria Isabel Martinez, Strategic Innovation Project Manager at Hospital Germans Trias, said: “One of my main takeaways is that on this campus you have everyone all super close to each other. This includes the companies. For example, we visited Lucid and the proximity between the hospital trust and this company is very close and I realised how amazed one of our physicians was by this. He was thinking ‘wow, I would love to have this’. I also now understand the entire ecosystem, the structure of the healthcare system here. When you want to start a collaboration, you don’t really understand that until you visit.”

Dace Dimza-Jones, NIHR CRN GM Business Development Manager, said: “It was fantastic to see such enthusiasm from everyone involved and such a willingness to collaborate as we take this project forward, with potentially even more stakeholders involved. The visit showed our ‘One Greater Manchester’ approach in action and reflected very positively on how we work together here. From a CRN GM perspective, it was a particularly good opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to delivering inclusive research that’s relevant to everyone in our local communities.”

Vicky Bertenshaw, Research Operations Manager/Head of Operations (MIMIT) at Health Innovation Manchester, said: “Recently, Manchester research colleagues have spent a fantastic week in Barcelona as part of the Healthcare Entrepreneur Exchange Programme (HEEP), sharing lessons learnt in healthcare innovation and building networks and key relationships. We were delighted to return the favour and welcome our HEEP partners from Barcelona to Manchester by spending the morning at Health Innovation Manchester offices, showcasing the programmes we use to support local entrepreneurs in developing their research ideas and local clinicians and academics in accessing industry expertise. We hope the networks built through this programme will be just the beginning of further knowledge sharing.”

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