The Life of a Market Researcher

16th May 2023

Market research is an integral part of the journey for innovations, and a key part of the Innovation Pathway.

We sat down with our Market Researcher, Nick Harrison, to talk to him about his role, what he does for innovators, and tomatoes.


What got you into Market Research and how did you come to work for the AHSN NENC?

My background is in business, and I did a business studies degree, so I came into this from a non-medical viewpoint. That can be both an advantage and disadvantage, but I research various topics when a new idea comes in and bring myself up to speed which makes the job interesting.

After my business degree, I had various support and admin roles in business centres working with startup companies. From there I was introduced to RTC North which is where NHS Innovations North was hosted. So that was when I first got into medical technology and that was about five years ago. From there, I became fascinated by how innovation works in the NHS, but also how innovations are brought into and emerge from the NHS.

I jumped at the opportunity to investigate these new ideas, to see if they’ve been done before, what sort of impact they’ve had and what impact they can have on public health. It’s a really rewarding sphere to be part of and we can really impact people’s lives.

So, at RTC North I was working on the NHS Innovations Program focusing on research and the opportunity arose to come and work for the AHSN. At that point, I was contracted by the AHSN, but then I moved fully over and became a fully-fledged employee about 3 ½ years ago.


What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I’m into football, and I support Hartlepool United for my sins. I am from Hartlepool, so I’m allowed to. I also like music and I play the guitar. I used to perform at gigs and festivals and recently I’ve started appreciating the outdoors a lot more. I like going on long walks by the coast, I’m getting into bird watching and growing things in my garden, such as tomatoes which I had this year for the first time.


Can you give us an idea of what you do day-to-day?

Of course, it’s very dull really! I do clusters of market research, so many of the ideas that I deal with come from NHS Trusts through our relationships in the region. That’s a fairly significant portion of my work, but I get bits through from businesses as well as new programs that the AHSN are working on.

There is a wide range of projects in the AHSN, and they’ll often come to me at some point in their project and ask for a bit of research, so I’m here to assist wherever I can.


Can you summarize the AHSN research offering for innovators?

We do different things for different companies, but the overall idea is if they have an idea, we can tell them if it’s been done before. Or, we can say who the key players in that space are and look at the landscape, trends, literature etc.

On most occasions, the first steps will be patent searching and whether there is any intellectual property that needs to be protected.

We’ll then produce a report and from there, they should be more equipped to carry on their journey of innovation.


Do you have an example of an innovation that you have aided recently?

Yes of course. We worked on a falls prevention and detection horizon scanning project. This was carried out in collaboration with the North East Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (NEADASS) and Durham County Council in order to identify and assess falls prevention and detection technologies. It involved a systematic search and review of the falls prevention and detection technology landscape. The search resulted in a detailed report and database of 78 technologies which were filtered, reviewed and assessed on various metrics. Technologies included wearables but there was a focus on ambient and environmental sensors of varying classes. Certifications and factors such as data security and DTAC compliance were also assessed. This enabled a shortlist of devices and suppliers to be generated who are in the process of being invited to an event to demonstrate their technologies to the NHS and care providers in May 2023.


If an innovator is thinking about contacting you or the AHSN about research, what would you suggest they do first?

We encourage an innovator to do a little bit of research first, even if it’s just having a look at Google. Using keywords relating to your proposal is key and you can find out some information quite readily. Making notes like that before coming to us can really help.


How can I find out more information?

I’m happy to answer any more questions and provide more information as needed, just contact me on my email below.

[email protected]


Thanks for talking to us about market research, Nick!

You can read more about our market research offer to innovators here