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Good ideas can only have impact if they are taken up and used. Yet health systems worldwide struggle when it comes to adopting and spreading innovations.

The NHS Innovation Accelerator (NIA) is a fellowship programme launched by NHS England in 2015 and delivered collaboratively by UCLPartners and Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs).

It supports clinicians, SMEs and academics to scale up their innovations within the NHS. Unlike most accelerators and fellowships, it focuses not on developing new ideas, but on getting them taken up by the health service.

The NIA aims to help good innovators become ‘good diffusers’. Fellows accepted onto the accelerator are partnered with one or more AHSNs and receive mentoring from health system and innovation experts, and a bursary (provided by AHSNs).

Within the first month, fellows have to pitch innovations and scaling strategies to an audience of people working within and alongside the NHS. They identify areas in which they would benefit from more help, for example health economics or understanding commissioning. They also have the chance to attend ‘speed dating’-style sessions with groups of commissioners, patient groups, primary and secondary care providers, where they can get honest feedback about their innovations and plans.

Fellows meet with the NIA team hosted at UCLPartners at least every six weeks on a 1:1 basis, or with their cohort at quarterly events.

In its first 17 months, the accelerator supported 17 fellows to get their interventions taken up in 419 organisations, and to raise over £20m in funding.

One successful innovation accepted in the first year of the NIA was the PneuX Pneumonia Prevention System, a cuffed ventilation tube which aims to prevent ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP), the most common cause of hospital-acquired mortality in Intensive Care Units in England. Since joining the NIA, PneuX has had a successful hospital trial, including an economic evaluation which showed a saving of £718 for each patient receiving treatment with the PneuX.

Image credit: Amanda Begley