Prof. Ben Bridgewater: Reflecting on a year of innovation at pace and scale

Ben Bridgewater

Health Innovation Manchester was established in 2017 to help transform the health and wellbeing of Greater Manchester’s 2.8 million citizens. Six years on and the mission remains the same, however the organisation and its strategy has seen significant change, development, and improvement.

In this blog, Professor Ben Bridgewater, Chief Executive at Health Innovation Manchester, reflects on how the organisation and wider system has adapted to cultural changes, highlights the successes and challenges throughout 2023, and shares his prospects for 2024.

As I reflect on this year, I am pleased with the progress that we’ve seen at Health Innovation Manchester. I think we are developing an organisational culture that is fit for our business objective of innovation at pace and scale.

As we move further away from the legacy of COVID-19, we have built on a lot of the thinking and learning from this most difficult of times, which has put us in a positive space for what we’re delivering now.

The pandemic highlighted the importance of aligning our priorities, agile methodology, aligning our and working in partnership, both with industry partners and our key stakeholders across Greater Manchester. In this way we are now progressing towards our vision of being a recognised international leader in accelerating innovation to the needs of local people and contributing positively to a leading integrated health science and innovation system.

Digital is at the heart of our thinking in this, and sometimes I am asked “what does digital mean to you”. Overall, I would say that ‘digital’ is about using the exponential progression of information technology to deliver faster time to value for all partners. It is, of course, about data but it is about much more than this as well including how we engage with people and transform operating models and business models. One thing we know about digital is that the pace of change has been significant to date, and it is not slowing down any time soon. If we are in the business of innovation we must focus on digital and we will continue to do so.

Supported by the recent launch of the Greater Manchester Health and Care Digital Transformation Strategy, along with our partners we are collectively generating a more holistic and shared vision of digital and what it can do for our system. I believe that we are firmly in a position where we can start to fully harness the power of digital in transforming how we provide more effective and efficient care for the people of Greater Manchester, add value to all our partners and ensure that we recognise and address inequalities.

As we learned specifically through our contribution to the COVID response, the more we align our priorities with system and industry partners, the further and faster we will go. All healthcare systems face challenges, and there are some specific challenges in Greater Manchester. It is imperative that we align our innovation priorities absolutely with system needs and get everyone relevant to agree with that alignment. The more we do this, the more we can contribute through Heath Innovation Manchester, and we have a role in achieving alignment as well as delivering innovation. This must be our focus now.

A good example of partnership from this year has been our work to reduce the consequences of cardiovascular disease and its associated health inequalities in Greater Manchester, by improving patient access to appropriate, novel therapies on the lipids management pathway.

Possibly, the biggest area where the NHS can save lives over the next 10 years is reducing the prevalence and impacts of cardiovascular disease (a particular problem in Greater Manchester), and we’ve worked hard in terms of prioritising this as a key program in our portfolio. The team who has delivered this have done an excellent job, working well across industry, the NHS, academia and engaging with patients to address inequality. We have walked the walk here in demonstrating how we can achieve so much more when we align.

Looking forward, we need to make sure that our resource is going to deliver the biggest impact to our population. This is not new, but I now feel as though we as a system are ready to take this to the next level.

We must ask ourselves also how we can be more confident that the efforts that we put into deploying innovation at scale are going to have the biggest possible impact, and I look forward to achieving these ambitions throughout 2024 and beyond.

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