By Dermot Bolton, Programme Manager Digital Health Enterprise Zone
Tomorrow I’ll have been managing the Digital Health Enterprise Zone programme, and working for the University of Bradford, for two whole years. I’ve helped grow a terrific team of bright and dedicated people who all feel they are a part of something great. I’ve seen our stakeholders grow from just a handful of interested people to scores of active participants from business, health and care, academia and the public sector. We’re now seeing some early successes with the likes of Konnektis and Dataflock basing themselves at the Digital Exchange and developing some real solutions to solve people’s real problems. The Digital Catapult Centre Yorkshire is driving business engagement and events, and relationships with key organisations such as NHS Digital, Bradford CCGs, and our partners BT and Bradford Council, are opening up opportunities for our businesses and academics.
But we’re not finished yet! Although the Digital Exchange incubation centre opened in April 2016 and DHEZ Ltd is up and active, there’s more in the works. Perhaps the biggest part of the programme is the DHEZ Academic building on University of Bradford Campus. This £4.5m refurbishment project will create a centre for academic collaboration and innovation. Researchers and students from a range of disciplines will work alongside small businesses and entrepreneurs, health sector professionals and practitioners, as well as visiting members of the public. Local people can come along for the eye clinic or physiotherapy, maybe they’ll speak to community pharmacists and have their medicines reviewed, or perhaps they’ll join in a support group to help them manage their long term condition. A technology enabled house within will allow researchers to develop new ideas, and help businesses to evaluate their innovations. The building is designed to house all these things, and more besides. But like the Digital Exchange it’s really about how people from different areas can come together and innovate in Digital Health to make real change to people’s lives. This last phase of the setup programme will be complete in Summer 2017.
I have to say that it’s been a very exciting programme to work on so far, and as things shape up and more people become involved it’s going to be great to see what exciting work develops. Of course despite how much I enjoy my job I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t without its ups and downs. Sometimes it’s difficult to get people to send me papers in time to report to senior colleagues. Other times working with external suppliers to tight deadlines can prove a challenge. Even arranging meetings with multiple busy people can prove more frustrating than you’d think. For all that though I love the passion and enthusiasm that the DHEZ programme generates in people. When someone buys in to what we’re trying to achieve they add to the collective will to support our growing community and grow digital health innovation in Bradford and beyond. And that’s the thing really. Creating an eco-system to support innovation and enterprise in digital health is primarily about the people. It’s about better outcomes for all of us, whether it’s managing your long term condition or keeping an eye on the care your grandad is receiving at home. Digital health is transforming our health and care for the better. It might even help save the NHS from financial ruin, well a bit anyway.
In another two years I’ll still be around in Bradford and hopefully the University. I fully intend to enjoy a sense of pride for my role in helping to shape something great for Bradford and the thousands of people who will inevitably benefit from what we’ve done with the Digital Health Enterprise Zone.