September at the Innovation Forum

29th September 2022

Welcome to the second blog in an introductory series to the Innovation Forum, written by our Innovation Manager and chair of the Innovation Forum Dr Becky Hanna.

After a summer break, we were welcomed to Sunderland by Mark Taylor of South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust. This NHS Innovation team work closely with partners at the University of Sunderland, and we were invited by Professor Tony Alabaster to meet at Hope Street Xchange.

The Forum continues to grow, and this meeting marked our highest attendance to date. It’s certainly an exciting time to be working in healthcare innovation! Since our last meeting, we’ve welcomed new members from the NHS and AHSN NENC. Those from the NHS include Aejaz Zahid (Director of Innovation, NHS North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board (ICB)), Conor O’Neill (Innovation Manager, Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust), and John Mulcahy (Research and Innovation Business Manager, County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust).

The meeting opened with our round table discussion of updates from both the AHSN NENC and NHS Trusts. We heard the outcomes of items raised at the previous session, promotions of various upcoming events, and some national updates such as the launch of the National Innovation Service. A key calendar date was the launch of the 2022 Bright Ideas in Health Awards, which will see the NHS Innovation leads working over the next few months to gather submissions in celebration of those working on innovative healthcare solutions. These regional awards also span academia and industry, so please feel free to submit your projects if they align with any of the categories.

We were joined in the second half by the university of Sunderland, and we heard six quick-fire presentations designed to showcase the variety of expertise and resources available. The speakers were tasked with introducing how their specialist area can help develop innovative solutions to problems in healthcare.

Professor Jon Timmis (Deputy Vice-Chancellor – Commercial) opened with an overview of how the university supports innovation with an interesting focus on the development of a Health Innovation District within Sunderland. This was followed by examples of collaborative work from the Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (SAM) project (Professor David Baglee) which showcased some case studies from local company TRL9, and an introduction to the simulation facilities of The Living Lab and Helen McArdle House (Professor Yitka Graham) which showcased a case study from Olympus Medical. In addition, we heard about a range of projects from the AI and Robotics department (Professor John Murray), research design and statistician support available from the School of Psychology (Dr Jon Rees), and collaboration opportunities with the Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries (Professor Arabella Plouviez).

Guests attend the Innovation Forum meeting at Hope Street Xchange. Picture: DAVID WOOD


The Innovation Forum aims to break down barriers to engagement, and we’ve already seen new connections made since this meeting. We aspire to be a region renowned for its interdisciplinary collaborations, particularly those spanning NHS, industry, and academia. With that in mind, please do get in touch if anything you’ve read sparks interest!

We’re heading to the Northumbria Healthcare Manufacturing and Innovation Hub (Seaton Delaval) for our November meeting.

Thanks for reading!


Contact Becky Hanna for more information about the Innovation Forum at [email protected]