Enhancing innovation through collaboration to solve key challenges

As we come out of the Global Pandemic, research and innovation will be fundamental in Scotland’s swift economic and societal recovery. The enablers of this recovery will be discussed in a series of workshops being organised by KTN and, the Scottish Research Pool-led initiative, Research Innovation Scotland (RIS). The workshops will focus on research themes across the sectors, specifically, Health & Wellbeing, Digital Infrastructure and Manufacturing & Green Recovery, Just Transition to a Net Zero Carbon Society, and Climate & Environment.

The Scottish Research and Innovation Futures workshop series aims to influence policy makers and funders about where funding should be directed, in alignment with Scotland’s research and innovation strengths and the UK’s key challenge areas. The first of these workshops, Our Future Health Scotland, is on the Health & Wellbeing theme on 18th May 2021, with further workshops following each month.

Our individual and collective health and wellbeing will always be our foremost priority, to which all of life’s other challenges are subordinate. Whilst the pace of scientific discovery and innovation is increasing, healthcare challenges still exist and, in some cases, are becoming more embedded within society. For example, new generations will face even more health difficulties unless we can act now to solve some of the challenges to mental health and physical disease related to obesity and sedentary lifestyles. This was the case before the pandemic, and it will be the case after the pandemic. Covid has simply accelerated these issues, along with many others.

Of particular concern for the Health & Wellbeing theme, the global pandemic has resulted in a significant backlog of patients waiting for treatment. For example, urgent GP lung cancer referrals are down by as much as 75% as a direct result of the pandemic, according to UK Lung Cancer Coalition (UKLCC). Detecting diseases such as cancer early and managing long-term conditions within a community setting are key priorities to be discussed at the upcoming workshop, bringing the best scientific minds together with policy makers to drive change for economic recovery and societal benefit.

The Scottish Research Pools, along with the Scottish Innovation Centres and Interface, as part of the RIS initiative, have joined forces with KTN to explore how research and innovation can contribute to the recovery from the social, cultural and economic impact of the pandemic. KTN is contributing insight on the acceleration of commercialisation of new innovations and providing industry knowledge that will complement the work of the Research Pools, which have a strong academic focus in scientific research.

Co-leading the Health & Wellbeing workshop are Dr Kristin Flegal, Lead Scientist at SINAPSE (Scottish Imaging Network: A Platform for Scientific Excellence) and Dr Alison Dun, Executive Director at SULSA (Scottish Universities Life Sciences Alliance). “It has been an absolute pleasure to organise this event, delving into the diverse range of exceptional research and innovation, happening in this area, throughout our Universities and our Businesses in Scotland. This coordinated effort across Research Pools, Innovation Centres and Interface, in partnership with KTN, enables us to drive high level collaboration, to shine a light on our brightest minds in Scotland and to strive for fundamental change that can innovate our NHS and help society recover.”

Terry O’Neill, KTN’s Head of Health said: “To properly respond to existing and emerging threats to our mental and physical health, it is critically important to ensure that any opportunity for collaborative research and innovation are appropriately leveraged. This is particularity true now, when resources are very scarce as we are not only fighting a global pandemic but also trying to predict the clinical challenges that it will create. In this circumstance, it is essential to ensure that innovators, both within industry and academia, are exposed to each others’ work in order to facilitate potential collaborations. Equally, funders need to be part of the conversation so that they are aware of the best innovations. This is what this workshop aims to achieve and KTN will be there to support the parties involved all along the way.”

At the end of the workshop series, RIS will publish a report with recommendations on future funding policies in Scotland, the wider UK and internationally, with the aim of promoting Scotland’s research and innovation, and forming new and enhanced connections across sectors, disciplines and nations.

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