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Behind the scenes - The next stage of innovation support image

Innovation is vital to our NHS. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to rapid change in the NHS – and it is important to ensure the ideas, innovations and solutions that occur during times of challenge are captured, developed and made available to support the fight against Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Launched in early April, the SHIL COVID-19 innovation call was designed to harness the knowledge and expertise of health and social care professionals.

Whilst recognising the pressures staff are under in responding to the crisis, they have also demonstrated their unrivalled ability to come up with innovative ideas and solutions; but as we enter a new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, the current call will close on 30 June 2020.

Reflecting over the past months, Graham Watson, Executive Chairman at SHIL comments:

“We are living in exceptional times with huge personal and professional challenges. Despite this, an overwhelming response to our COVID-19 innovation call has been achieved and I want to convey my personal thanks to all who submitted to this call; and to the team at SHIL for their commitment in encouraging ideas, rapidly assessing each one and moving the most promising to the next stage of development. We have some potentially transformational projects in the pipeline, and the ethos of hard work, resilience, determination and collaboration displayed throughout this time of challenge should be applauded.

“COVID-19 continues to pose a serious threat to public health in Scotland, but as we look to the future and use the framework set out by Scottish Government, a new set of challenges will emerge moving from fight to recovery. It is therefore right that we now transition the support of SHIL to best support this next stage, underlining innovation as an integral part of our NHS.”

Overwhelming response

Submission of ideas has increased dramatically. For the month of April submissions increased 560% on the same period last year with a mixture of ideas relating to PPE, disinfection, test kits, ventilators, vaccines, pharmaceuticals, mental health, telehealth/monitoring, tracking and others.

These ideas have, and continue to be, rapidly assessed by the SHIL team using the innovation pathway. Fiona Schaefer, Innovation Manager at SHIL explains:

“All submitted ideas are rapidly assessed to ensure they have development potential. For example, we do not want to duplicate a product or service already available or one where the costs or technical feasibility are unmanageable. We build on our established links across Scotland – Health Boards, Universities, industry and development agencies to draw on additional knowledge and experience; and use our funding, regulatory and commercialisation experience to accelerate possible solutions. We have also had a number of industry approaches and we always look to see if and where we can link these up within the NHS. It is great to see the response we have had, and the shared ambition of everyone to develop solutions and new approaches.”

A significant public health project is the development of a unique lateral flow antibody test, in collaboration with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and a range of industry partners. Based on existing prototypes developed for Zika virus and Dengue fever; a finger-prick blood sample will test and establish if a person has acquired antibodies to the COVID-19 virus. This is now being developed and will be tested and validated using blood samples from previously infected COVID-19 patients.

Whilst all of this work continues, SHIL support over the coming months will pivot to reflect next stages in the route map through and out of the crisis set out by Scottish Government.

Supporting a new phase

The current COVID-19 landscape is quite different to that existing in early April, when the SHIL Innovation call first launched. Swift adoption of technology, transformed work environments and the rapid construction of emergency care facilities were the hallmarks back then. Whilst this work continues to evolve, more recent developments include discussion on safe restart of NHS services, national roll out of Test and Protect, acceleration of digital tools to support the national decision support programme and an ongoing portfolio of COVID-19 research which is helping advance scientific knowledge to better understand and treat the virus.

These developments present different challenges and innovation support should evolve to reflect this. Robert Rea, Head of Innovation at SHIL comments:

“The time is right to consider the evolution of our innovation support around COVID-19; and tailor funding calls to areas of greatest need, or areas where most impact can be made. The current call has been well received; and as we learn more about the disease, the lockdown restrictions ease, new initiatives roll out and the safe restart of NHS services begins – it is inevitable new challenges will emerge. As always, we want to be able to support health and social care professionals who identify solutions and new approaches to these challenges, so we will be developing and then announcing additional tailored calls over the next month or two to align with the current landscape.”

Submissions to the current call can still be made until 30 June 2020 via

Find all information related to the funding call at

If you wish to highlight a specific medical area for future funding calls please contact

More information

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