Addressing health challenges – Lancaster University’s approach

The Health Innovation Campus is an international centre focused on tackling the biggest challenge in healthcare today – helping people to live as long and as healthily as possible.

We live in a time of unprecedented change. As we continue to live longer, the preservation of good health and quality of life presents significant challenges to an increasingly ageing population. Health systems in the UK, and globally, are under enormous pressure, necessitating innovative approaches across a range of platforms. Against this backdrop, Lancaster’s vision for health innovation will be to make a major contribution to how some of these significant health challenges are best addressed in a rapidly evolving global health landscape.  

Health innovation is about challenging the status quo and providing creative, novel and useful ideas that can be implemented to bring about meaningful change to health outcomes and quality of life – whether this is disruptive, changing paradigms, policies or models of care, or introducing novel products or services, or simply providing incremental improvements to existing solutions, such as optimising practices and processes.  At Lancaster this will mean harnessing our particular expertise in research, education and engagement to drive and support such changes; put simply, it is about us staying relevant.

Health Innovation Campus

The Lancaster Health Innovation Campus (HIC) is being established to support the delivery of this vision.  The aim is to create a world-class centre for innovation in health, transforming healthcare and changing practice internationally, nationally, and regionally - a ‘go to’ place for health innovation. The HIC will also be a catalyst for wealth creation, making a major contribution to the local and national economy, by attracting major investment, supporting job creation and the growth of businesses locally and improving the health of populations in the region.

Execution

Successful execution of this vision will rely on two key things:

  • A clear understanding of health challenges and needs

    This will be addressed through the establishment of strategic partnerships with key stakeholders such as the NHS and other healthcare providers, local authorities, and policymakers.  This will give us the insight needed to understand the key priorities, challenges and gaps in health and map these to the research capabilities and strengths at Lancaster.

  • A collaborative and multidisciplinary approach to provide solutions.

    At the centre of the HIC philosophy is a commitment to the development of an innovation eco-system that is based on collaboration between academics, health, care and charitable organisations, businesses, entrepreneurs and the public, working together to help co-design, develop and evaluate new ideas. It will also provide mechanisms for developing individual and organizational capacity and capability to promote, embed and implement innovation and entrepreneurship.  We will draw on our collaborative strengths at Lancaster, making extensive use of inter-disciplinary approaches, as well as working closely with other research providers and universities.

    This is not simply about drawing on a range of insights – it is about people from a broad range of disciplines working together to create novel approaches to these challenges; this will allow Lancaster to not only provide better solutions, but also attract the resources required, and ultimately, become a leader in this space.

Collaboration

The HIC has been designed to encourage and facilitate collaboration and inter-disciplinary approaches.

It will have facilities built specifically to support existing and emerging health research, education and engagement and to catalyse new initiatives; in this way, as well as improving health outcomes, it is intended that the HIC will also stimulate and help University staff to identify and implement new approaches to research, education and engagement.

University staff whose work is principally focused on health will be located at the HIC, and a wide range of opportunities for others to connect with the work of the HIC are also anticipated.

Scope

The HIC will pay particular attention to addressing challenges affecting health at population scale, whilst recognizing that many solutions will be implemented at the level of the individual.  The aim is to enable people to live as well and as independently as possible, for as long as possible.

The scope of its activities will include:

  • Enabling people to achieve and sustain their optimal health and wellbeing
  • Enabling early detection and intervention of disease
  • Providing of mechanisms for easy and/or self-management of health issues in home and community settings

Impact

Whilst excellent research will be fundamental to our approach, Lancaster’s success in health innovation will be dependent on tangible outcomes and making the relevant impact, especially at scale.  Therefore, engagement with the appropriate stakeholder groups across a range of sectors will be critical. In this way, we can play a significant role in shaping, supporting and testing new thinking, new approaches to policy and practice, and the development of new products.

Education will be an important part of this as we seek to introduce changes and implement best practice across the health and care systems, other organisations and the community as a whole.

By demonstrating our ability to develop innovative solutions and establish and implement best practice, we will also develop a basis for working closely with policy-makers and government so that we can play a leading role in informing future policy.

The first phase of the HIC is due to open in late-2019.  Its early work will include innovations based on customized digital platforms, health materials, process engineering, and healthy places, but we expect the range of innovations to broaden rapidly as it becomes established.

The second phase, which will include facilities for biomedical, life and physical sciences, and the co-location of the Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Pathology Hub, is currently being scoped out.

Examples

Some early examples of this approach include:

  • The Lancashire and Cumbria Innovation Alliance Test Bed

    One of just seven successful bids across England, the Test Bed was awarded £1.7m for a 2-year programme to install individually-tailored digital technology packages in homes across the Fylde Coast and Morecambe Bay areas to support self-care for older people with dementia and complex health conditions.

    Over the past two years, the partnership between the local NHS, the University, one major business (Philips) and a range of other digital businesses has generated a number of important practical benefits for local people and communities, as well as a number of strategic benefits for each of the partner organisations.  In particular, it has enabled Lancashire and Cumbria to become recognised as a nationally-leading area for experience and know-how in using digital technologies in homes.

  • Healthy new towns

    Partnerships have been established with councils, colleges and third sector organisations in Lancashire and South Cumbria to support the development of new towns and regeneration programmes with a specific emphasis on enhancing health.

    An early example is 'Leading Places', a national pilot based on a partnership between Lancaster University, Blackburn with Darwen Council and Blackburn College.  This aims to create the conditions for a social movement to increase physical activity levels of students at the College; it also links with the multi-million pound Sport England Pennine Lancashire project.