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Behind the scenes – A hotbed of innovation image

The latest patent, trademark and design data from the UK Intellectual Property Office has highlighted impressive performance in Scotland over the past year with a 54.2 per cent rise in registered design applications (1168 applications in 2019, compared with 757 in 2018), and the percentage of patents granted to Scottish applicants up to 6.7 per cent from 4.8 per cent the previous year.

Intellectual property advice is part of a suite of innovation support services offered by SHIL, so we use this issue of behind the scenes to highlight the importance of protecting innovative ideas originating within NHS Scotland.


Intellectual property (IP) is any piece of original, creative work – for our purposes, an invention, brand or design – that has been successfully developed and can be owned in the same sense as physical property.

Without ownership over the Intellectual Property (IP) of something you have created, anyone, regardless of permission, can use and adapt that idea. Protecting IP allows you to manage how it is used, and who uses it.

Anything of commercial value should be protected as soon as possible; and to date SHIL has protected the Intellectual Property, Trademark, Copyright and Design Right for over 250 NHS inventions.

How SHIL helps protect IP

As a champion for health innovation, Scottish Health Innovation Ltd (SHIL) work in partnership with NHS Scotland to move promising ideas and innovations into viable products to improve patient care.

SHIL assist the NHS in acquiring and managing this IP, to ensure a return on investment for the health service, with any revenue generated from commercialising ideas and innovations shared with the originator and the health board through a bespoke NHS inventor award scheme. This means SHIL helps generate an income stream to NHS health boards through financial returns on co-development projects.

A critical part of this work is protecting those ideas and innovation. All modern healthcare is founded on past innovation and the development of new ideas is essential to create a modern, innovative, and sustainable NHS of the future. But without ownership over the IP of what has been created or invented, anyone, regardless of permission, can use and adapt that idea. Protecting IP is therefore crucial to ideas originating from NHS Scotland. It secures the interests of both the health professional/ inventor, and the health board.

A short guide to IP is available via the SHIL website. It details the different types of IP including copyright, patents, trademarks and trade secrets.

Why IP is important

Robert Rea, Head of Innovation at SHIL and a former Intellectual Property Manager for a French Biotech company, holds responsibility for IP at SHIL and stresses the importance of early contact to capitalise on opportunities:

“IP really is a critical part of our work here at SHIL and anything of commercial value should be protected as soon as possible. It is factored into our initial evaluation process as part of our assessment of commercial viability.

“This is because, highly competitive marketplaces, including health fields such as biotechnology and pharmaceutical, need the protection against copycat products. Securing IP also provides a basis for collaboration with other partners, perhaps to attract funding or to support the manufacture of a product.

“This can be quite a daunting part of the process with inventors concerned about the time commitment to secure IP. This is an area SHIL can progress on behalf of the inventor and we also support health boards with audits, training and general guidance.

“This sort of collaborative approach is essential to translate ideas from NHS Scotland into viable products to improve patient care.”

IP and innovating during COVID-19

Despite the unprecedented effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic, innovation has continued and adapted to help in the fight against coronavirus. And with a surge in innovative solutions, the impressive IP statistics of the past 12 months could potentially further increase in 2020.

Director General Francis Gurry of World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) comments: “In recent months, the lives of billions of people around the globe have been radically disrupted. Yet we can draw inspiration from the unyielding human drive to overcome adversity and to find innovative solutions to complex global challenges. Every day, we see the emergence of encouraging initiatives, as governments, industry and academia come together to support efforts to innovate our way out of the current crisis.”

SHIL is playing a full part in supporting such initiatives with the recent Coronavirus (COVID-19) Innovation call. It is designed to harness the knowledge and expertise of health and social care professionals across Scotland to develop innovative solutions in response to the crisis.



SHIL Chairman Graham Watson comments on the importance of innovation in today’s current climate:

“The capacity for rapid change is all around us and it is important to ensure the ideas, innovations and solutions that occur during times of challenge are captured, developed and made available as quickly as possible to support the fight against Coronavirus (COVID-19). Incredible knowledge and expertise resides within our NHS; more than ever we must ensure this is harnessed and supported.”

In Scots Law, if you create your invention as a result of your daily duties within your job then the IP is owned by your employer (in the absence of any agreement that states otherwise). However, if your idea is formed outwith your employment duties, or you are self-employed then typically the IP belongs to you. The SHIL inventor guide provides a full overview, examples and frequently asked questions.

If you wish to find out more get in touch with the team via and follow @ScotHealthInno for daily innovation news and updates.

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