It’s an exciting time to be working across digital innovation in Wales, where we’re engaging with a diverse range of stakeholders including health, social care, industry, government and academia. Curious to know what this is like? Our latest blog gives an insight into a recent meeting we hosted to strengthen the ties between Irish and Welsh innovators.
Ireland and Wales have a lot in common with each other. Both have strong linguistic links through our living Celtic languages, are all too familiar with rainy weather, and are steeped in rich history of poetry and art.
But we are also two nations who are committed to accelerating the development and adoption of innovative digital solutions to help improve health and wellbeing outcomes for our citizens. We also face the same challenges when it comes to health and social care: an ageing population who often have complex and expensive needs, a fragmented system that can be difficult to navigate through, and staff who are often under resource constraints.
Working together can help us forge digital solutions to help us overcome these hurdles with technology such as remote monitoring, virtual and augmented reality, robotics and artificial intelligence (AI). These can transform the health and social care delivery for staff, patients and service users alongside leading to improved economic wellbeing through revenue and jobs growth.
Coming together to strengthen our connections
Our most recent meeting was organised to help achieve the above; with attendees discussing potential collaboration opportunities, sharing best practices, and helping to consolidate the friendship between health, digital and life sciences organisations across these two nations.
It followed on from a visit in October 2021 to Life Sciences Hub Wales by Irish and Welsh trade ministers.
This time we were delighted to welcome a range of attendees to our Cardiff office from both Wales and Ireland. This included stakeholders from Enterprise Ireland, HSE Digital Transformation, our counterparts over at Health Innovation Hub Ireland, SAIL Databank, the Irish Consulate in Cardiff and a variety of Irish and Welsh companies offering digital solutions for health and social care.
What was discussed?
We had a number of presentations covering topics pertinent to the challenges and opportunities surrounding digital innovation. Each person in attendance also had time to provide an elevator pitch about their company and digital solution. And there was of course, lots of time allocated for networking so stakeholders could get to understand each other’s experiences and expertise better.
The talks commenced with an introduction from the Irish Consulate, with Denise McQuade, Consul General in Cardiff, who echoed the sentiments laid out in the Ireland-Wales Shared Statement and Joint Action Plan (2021) about our shared values and how we can focus our trade and work together in the life sciences, healthcare and digital space.
This was followed by Dr Christian Stafford, Digital Health Sector Lead at Enterprise Ireland, providing a summary of the Irish innovation ecosystem - in particular the strengths of the emerging digital health sector- and how his organisation supports this.
Our Chief Executive Officer, Cari-Anne Quinn provided a corresponding overview of the Welsh ecosystem, highlighting how factors like our population size, academic excellence and healthcare integration help make it the place of choice for digital innovation. She also covered how Life Sciences Hub Wales supports stakeholders working in industry, health and social accelerate the development and adoption of digital solutions for health and wellbeing.
We then heard from Prof David Ford, Co-Founder and Director of SAIL Databank, about the organisation’s population databank, which contains significant volumes of fully anonymised and robust population data that adheres to strict regulatory frameworks. He detailed the value this tool can provide for researchers and healthcare organisations developing innovative products and services, alongside highlighting some fascinating research it has supported with in journals such Nature Medicine and Public Health Scotland.
Des O’Toole, Clinical Innovation Lead at HSE, provided a fascinating insight into digital transformation within Ireland’s publicly funded healthcare system. He provided an overview of how they use design thinking to create user-centred solutions, with their efforts to transform the clinical pathway of respiratory-compromised patients in Ireland as an example. Here, he highlighted some of the challenges they faced in wider spread and scale and the importance of influencing organisational culture to deliver change.
Dr Edward McDonnell presented on CeADAR, which is Ireland’s hub for applied AI. The Centre Director highlighted how Ireland has established itself as a key habitat for information technology innovation. He discussed how CeADAR acts as a critical bridge for AI work between academic researchers and commercially driven organisations, their international engagement with policy makers and the services they offer to all partners.
Health Innovation Hub Ireland’s Director, Dr Tanya Mulcahy spoke about their organisation and how they support innovators through the development pathways and drive collaboration between healthcare and industry. As an organisation with a similar remit to us, it was helpful to understand how their work corresponds with ours.
I then closed the meeting’s talks with an insight into the Digital Health Ecosystem Wales (DHEW), where I took everyone through the programme and how we support digital innovators in Wales.
Rounding off the day was a visit to Tramshed Tech, where we learnt how this dynamic space in Cardiff is supporting digital start-ups by providing space, resource and learning, and how it fits into the international landscape for innovation incubation.
We are delighted that attendees from both nations were able to connect and strengthen ties at the meeting. It also helped to reaffirm how each nation has a wealth of experiences and knowledge surrounding digital innovation in health and social care that can benefit the other.
We know that a lot of exciting conversations have started off the back of the day and look forward to seeing how they progress and continue to strengthen the links between our two countries.
If you’re working in the digital innovation space and would like support in the development and adoption of it into health and social care services, then please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to see how we can help you.