The Manchester Connected Health Ecosystem: Enhancing Engagement with Industry, NHS & City Region

Manchester Informatics (Mi) is the University of Manchester’s strategic response to the challenges and opportunities of the digital revolution.

Connected Health is a major theme for Mi and, as part of our role as a founder member of the European Connected Health Alliance (ECHAlliance), we established the GM Connected-Health Ecosystem in 2011 as a vehicle for bringing together academia, industry, patient and third sector organisations, the NHS, social care organisations and the Greater Manchester city-region organisations.

In 2012 HEIF funding was awarded to establish and strengthen the University’s Connected Health community, and to develop the Manchester Connected Health Ecosystem as a vehicle for bringing together academia, industry, the NHS, social care organisations, and city-region organisations, facilitating collaborative research and innovation projects, embedding the Ecosystem within the city-region partners and disseminating research results and best practice in innovation.

What is a Connected Health Ecosystem?

The Ecosystem is a long-term multi-sector partnership of significant critical mass that brings together 80 member organisations and growing: NHS Secondary Care and Primary Care (22); Social/Community Care (4); industry including technology, digital, healthcare, pharma (39); HE Research Innovation Base including Universities of Manchester, MMU and Salford (9); Patient, Families, Citizens Organisations (3) and a number of key stakeholders as Strategic Partners. The members share a commitment to accelerating the adoption of Connected Health innovations to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare delivery and to provide opportunities for economic development of the sector in Greater Manchester.

How Does the Project Support the Ecosystem?

Mi leads the Ecosystem, facilitating the running of collaborative Connected Health research and innovation projects, embedding the Ecosystem within the city-region and disseminating research results and innovation best practice.

Mi engages very actively to build the community of Ecosystem members, through regular newsletters and quarterly meetings which provide a forum for members to meet regularly and collaborate on scoping priority areas for Connected Health innovation in Manchester and also organising targeted events focussed on specific projects and opportunities.

Mi has forged formal strategic relationships between the Ecosystem and these organisations and we are now working to develop similar formal strategic relationships with the newly formed Health Innovation Manchester, GM-ADASS (responsible for delivering adult social care across GM) and the Network of Directors of Public Health in GM.

Our aim is to be completely embedded in the GM devolved health and social care structures and to play a leading role in the GM digital health strategy and interactions with the other Connected Health Cities.

What Benefits Does the Ecosystem deliver?

Members from industry and the third Sector can gain an understanding of user needs and priorities in an innovation-friendly environment; health and social care organisations gain access to state-of-the-art technology and knowledge in industry and other partner organisations to help develop more efficient & higher quality care services and can inform the research agenda; patient groups can influence the design and deployment of new services and academic research can benefit from an understanding of user needs & priorities and access to state-of-the-art technology and knowledge in industry.

The Ecosystem brings engaged industry and social care partners, that no one else is able to mobilise, to city-region organisations and is therefore highly valued by major GM stakeholder organisations including the GM-AHSN, MIDAS, (Manchester’s inward investment agency), Manchester Science Parks Ltd (the business incubator for high tech SMEs) and the GM Commission for the New Economy as a crucial element of the broader digital health landscape in Greater Manchester. The Health Innovation Manchester video Health and lifesciences in Manchester cites Manchester’s “Europe’s flagship Connected Health Ecosystem” as one of the major health and life sciences assets for the city-region.

Our deep and continued engagement with the NHS and industry through the Ecosystem has led to a number of joint research and innovation projects involving the University and Ecosystem members from the NHS and large and small industry. Most notable are:

  • MRC funding for the ClinTouch and Careloop projects developing mobile technology to support people with severe mental illness involving University of Manchester, Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust, Rethink mental health charity and Jansen Health Care Innovation.
  • A number of InnovateUK/NHS funded SBRI projects including High-tech Mobile Assessment Tools, Exergames for Falls Prevention, Orthopaedic Rehabilitation involving University of Manchester Mujo Mechanics Ltd, Quinec Ltd and the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital.
  • EPSRC funding for the NewMind Network Partnership with the MindTech HTC. The network explores the science and engineering challenges of developing technologies for mental health involving University of Manchester and a number of Ecosystem members with an interest in mental health including the NHS, social care and charities.

Is the GM Connected Health Ecosystem Unique?

Far from it! 

Manchester was the first Connected Health Ecosystem but the model has since been adopted across Europe, the state of New York in the US, Canada and China and Mi staff play a key role in the ECH Alliance’s international network of Connected Health Ecosystems. 

We have presented at the launch of Ecosystems in Oulu, Barcelona, Athens, Nice and Valencia and are often asked to advise other countries on how to launch and run an Ecosystem. 

There are currently 12 other Ecosystems in Estonia, Finland, France, Greece), Poland, Republic of Ireland, the UK (NW Coast, Northern Ireland and Scotland) and the USA (New York). Six more Ecosystems are scheduled to launch in the next few months in Canada, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Spain, France and England and more than ten countries are developing plans to set up their own Ecosystems.