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Supporting innovation in diabetes image

Diabetes is one of the most common diseases affecting people in Scotland. Over 304,000 people are diagnosed (Scottish Diabetes Survey, 2018); with incidence and prevalence of all types of diabetes steadily growing over the past 10 years.

The recent Diabetes Awareness Week highlighted everyone’s experience of diabetes is different, but a common goal unites – building a better future

At SHIL this means supporting innovation across NHS Scotland, in alignment with the Diabetes Improvement Plan (Scottish Government, 2014) which aims to accelerate the development of innovative solutions to improve treatment, care and quality of life of people living with diabetes.

Diabetes is a complex and progressive disease with severe, and costly, but avoidable complications. In 2012, 10% of Scotland’s NHS budget was being spent on diabetes, approximately £1 billion - 80% of which was being spent on treating avoidable complications (DHI, 2019).

Innovation is therefore crucial to not only transform the lives of patients with diabetes but also counter the social and economic consequences of the disease. Fortunately Scotland has a number of advantages:

  • The diabetes community in Scotland is strong – academics, clinicians, networks, policy and patients working collaboratively towards a common goal
  • Across the country, important research is helping to improve understanding of the impact of changing diabetes care on the population, the complications associated with diabetes and the development of new therapies
  • Strong infrastructure and data assets including Scottish Care Information – Diabetes Collaboration (SCI-DC) which tracks real-time clinical information on all patients with type I and type II Diabetes in Scotland. It is updated daily from all hospital clinics and GP practices, and can be interrogated to examine the natural history of the disease, trends in treatment and clinical outcomes
  • The infrastructure and expertise combines with an aspiration that Scotland can become a world leader in diabetes technology. Positive examples are evident already including MyWay Digital Health, a University of Dundee spin out company supporting clinicians with intelligent, integrated patient management systems for diabetes; and helping patients manage their own condition through innovative and cost saving data-driven digital health solutions. The MyDiabetesMyWay patient platform has over 50,000 registrants in NHS Scotland, and has been widely implement in other UK regions.

Robert Rea, Head of Innovation at SHIL, comments: “The health, social and economic consequences of diabetes are significant, but fortunately in Scotland we benefit from a really vibrant diabetes community in Scotland, and strong infrastructure to take forward innovative projects to improve patient care and reduce impact on our NHS. These projects are being led by ambitous teams across Scotland. Our specific role at SHIL is to harness innovative ideas from the broad range of health and social care staff involved in the treatment and care of patients with diabetes and diabetes related complications, and combine it with our expertise in IP, regulatory affairs, funding and commercialisation to get products validated and onto the market.”

“We’ve been involved in a number of diabetes projects - one on helping to reduce the risk of blindness by detecting early incidences of diabetic retinopathy - which illustrates the broad range of professionals involved in the care and treatment of patients with diabetes. Working collaboratively, sharing knowledge and expertise is really important to accelerate innovative solutions."  


Digital developments, data, AI, wearable technology, smartphone apps and the ability to speak to health professionals online are all recent advances which make managing diabetes easier and safer when face-to-face care is restricted; and also support more self-management of the condition.

This is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a new report, published by IQVIA, highlighting the opportunity to transform diabetes care with digital innovation.

The SHIL COVID-19 Innovation call remains open until 30 June 2020. After this date innovation support will transition to align with the recovery stage, coupled with ongoing commitment to harness innovative ideas from health and social care professionals across Scotland.

Robert Rea, Head of Innovation at SHIL, adds: “We try to make our submission process as simple as possible, useful resources are available on the website, alongside successfully commercialised products and spin out companies. Innovation potential within diabetes is vast and the team at SHIL would welcome new ideas to improve patient care and experience of living with diabetes.”

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