University of Salford’s Health Innovation Festival – “Health Innovation – The Way it Should Be!”

Health Innovation Manchester has a long-standing relationship with Greater Manchester’s four Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), allowing for innovative research partnerships to develop, and maximise the region’s research and academic capabilities.

The University of Salford hosted a Health Innovation Festival event to showcase world-leading research, technological innovation, and healthcare excellence on the University campus.

In this blog, Lloyd Gregory, Academic Partnerships Director at Health Innovation Manchester, and Ben Diette, Academic Partnerships Manager at Health Innovation Manchester reflect on what the University of Salford is doing for health innovation in Greater Manchester, and analyse findings, discussions and presentations from the Health Innovation Festival event workshops.  

The Health Innovation Festival marked an exciting day in the calendar of the Academic Partnerships Team and the University of Salford. After months of planning, weekly meetings, discussions about the communications and marketing of the event and some brilliant collaboration at the University, we launched with an air of excitement.

As Ben and I walked onto the main concourse in the Allerton Building at the start of the day, we were met by the aroma of tea and coffee and the obligatory chocolate hobnobs and ginger nut biscuits! Already, there were tables and stands erected and the team from the School of Health and Society were busy making final preparations. Even the delivery of the event was innovative, not your traditional PowerPoint presentations but bite-size, drop-in sessions designed to enable convenience, hands-on experience and above all maximise on collaborative discussion, and there was no shortage of that! Every session was executed brilliantly and one could see the endeavour and teamwork that had gone into the design and delivery of every single session.  Finally, what was abundantly obvious was the passion and dedication of the academic, technical and professional support staff delivering them.

The event had been billed as an immersive journey into the future of healthcare, and boy the team at Salford did not disappoint!  The range of workshops provided an opportunity for visitors to see the cutting-edge research being undertaken in state-of-the-art facilities. From robotics and automation to medical imaging and diagnostics, the university is clearly at the heart of shaping the future of healthcare. It also provided the opportunity to step into a world of innovation at ThinkLab, experience creativity and technology merging at Acoustics Lab, and visit the Simulation Suite for realistic healthcare environments, where literally anything that can be done in the real-world can be simulated here. There was truly something for everyone, with workshops demonstrating how antimicrobial surfaces can help to stop the spread of diseases, innovation in digital health and the impact of digital applications on people’s lives, and navigating the critical stages of the healthcare innovation pathway.

The festival clearly had all the ingredients to attract a diverse range of organisations. With over 200 people registered for the event, there was representation from other local universities, NHS, Industry and civic leadership.  This is no surprise, the University prides itself on being an inter and trans-disciplinary collaborative organisation focussed on healthy living, where prosperity and inclusivity are at the heart of delivering cutting-edge and creative technologies.  In short, as Nic Beech, Vice-Chancellor at the University, told us later in the day, “the University provides a different and life-enhancing nexus for its staff, students and the communities it serves”.  As Laura Rooney rightly observed when talking about her experience of the day, the university is delivering health innovation, “the way it should be.”

At a lunchtime session between senior leaders of the University that included their Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nic Beech, Professor Margaret Rowe (Dean of the School of Health & Society), Dr Vicky Halliwell (Deputy Dean of Health & Society) Denise Rennie (Acting Dean of School of Science, Engineering, Environment), Cathy Barnes,  (Commercial Director for School of Science, Engineering, Environment), Professor Penny Cook (Associate Dean for Research, Health & Society), Rowena Burns (Chair of Health Innovation Manchester(HinM)), and Laura Rooney (HInM Director of Strategy) we heard about the University’s exciting Masterplans agenda where as part of it they are building an innovative Clinical Centre. This state-of-the-art facility will house clinical grade space for teaching podiatry, prosthetics and orthotics, sports rehabilitation, physiotherapy, and Gait analysis as part of the university’s mission to train the next generation of healthcare professionals and to support the NHS in tackling workforce challenges.  It is envisaged that in time, community healthcare clinics will take place there stitching the university into the day-to-day healthcare delivery for the local population. Not to mention the research opportunities that will spring from real-world healthcare delivery! As Vicky Halliwell said, “it will provide a catalyst for change within the community”. Further information about the new clinical building can be found here.

Clearly, the university has invested in some pretty amazing facilities to provide a stimulating, exciting and cutting-edge learning and research environment for its students and staff and it is evident that these have all been designed collaboratively to take into account the needs of all who come into contact with them. What also comes across in spade-loads is the inclusive and supportive culture that is palpable from the moment you walk onto the campus or talk to any of the staff and students. From our personal experience of working with staff at the university, there is an authentic sense of collaboration and wanting to work and learn with and from others.

We are also confident that those who attended today would have gone away having learned something new, feeling inspired, and keen to have further discussions with the team at the University.   We’re excited to see what new collaborations develop or what relationships are created as a result of the festival and look forward to seeing what’s next for this organisation and the communities that it serves.

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