Life Sciences Hub Wales

In a bid coordinated by DHEW, Public Health Wales, in partnership with the NHS Wales Informatics ServiceSwansea University and Social Care Wales were selected as one of five of The Health Foundation Networked Data Labs to be established in the UK in 2020. This case study looks at the journey taken by the partners to secure the £400k funding. 



Despite a wealth of digital health, data and AI expertise, traditionally Wales’s success at securing funding in the health arena for these areas has been below its share due to a lack of resource, capacity and skill in bid management.

The DHEW programme team recognised that Wales could be receiving more funding to help in creating an environment of digital innovation in Welsh healthcare, so established a dedicated bid management support service.

Through the service, the team spot funding bid opportunities, use contacts to build the right project partners, and provide experienced bid support to support in pulling the applications together.

Network Data Lab funding bid

The Health Foundation advertised an opportunity to establish Networked Data labs, a collaborative network of analytical teams across the UK which would use linked datasets to produce insights on critical areas of population health and health care.

Up to £400,000 of funding was available for up to three local partners over two years to enable them to participate in the initiative and to support engagement with patients and the public, technical requirements, data stewardship and project management.

The selected partners would work collaboratively with each other and with a team at the Health Foundation to deliver data-driven insights on shared problems facing the health and care system.

Helen Northmore, Head of Innovation Adoption (Digital & AI) at Life Sciences Hub Wales, said:

“When The Health Foundation bid notice was published, it was clearly a great opportunity for organisations in Wales to potentially secure funding and improve our data analytics capability. We initially highlighted this funding opportunity to NHS Wales Informatics Service (NWIS) as it was aligned to work we had previously undertaken in developing a Digital Innovation Hub bid and very quickly expanded the partnership to include Swansea University, Public Health Wales (PHW) and Social Care Wales (SCW). This partnership was clearly going to meet the funding brief and add considerable value to a Networked Data Lab for Wales. All partners felt that the data and systems infrastructure in Wales would provide us with a real USP that no other part of the UK would have when competing for this funding.”

Support offered

DHEW used its network to establish a collaborative project team which included PHW, NWIS, Swansea University (SAIL Databank) and SCW.

These organisations had the expertise, knowledge and experience needed to deliver the project aims but didn’t have the resource or expertise to put the bid together. DHEW provided support in putting the funding bid together. This involved:

Stage one – Expression of Interest (EOI) – December 2019

The DHEW team worked with the project team to extract content to answer the questions included in the EOI, developing the project team’s pitch and editing all the information into a really easy to understand and compelling story on why the team should be selected for full application.

Stage two – Full application – February 2020

After successfully making it through the first stage, the DHEW team supported in putting together the full application. This included a much more detailed 20-page plan, together with a budget spreadsheet. We created a project plan with clear timelines and deadlines for developing content, as well as organising project team meetings, managing the application process, uploading all documentation, shaping content and completing several reviews of the application to ensure we met all requirements and made a compelling case for funding.

Stage three – Interview – April 2020

After successfully making it through the second stage, the project team was shortlisted for a final interview. The DHEW team supported in preparing materials for this interview, organising a mock interview panel with ex-assessors and helping the project team refine their application to include the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Bid success

In May 2020, the project team were notified that they were successful in being selected as a partner, alongside four other partner organisations.

Networked Data Lab Wales is now an established partner of the network. It will help provide timely insights on key questions important to the health of the population in Wales, to inform policy and practice. It will also be able to share and contribute to the wider UK knowledge of applied health analytics, and learn from others in these fields.

Alisha Davies, Head of Research and Evaluation Division (PHW) said:

“We were delighted to join the Networked Data Lab collaborative network thanks to the support of the DHEW team. This exciting and innovative programme will enable us to accelerate the use of linked data to address key questions in health.

‘Working in new ways with the Networked Data Lab will enable us to deliver timely and more in-depth understanding of highly relevant health challenges facing Wales and the UK. PHW will take the lead in the project, with NWIS, Swansea University and SCW as key partners bringing expertise in data systems, data linkage and application to health and care questions.

‘Together we can optimise the use of routine data to address health, prevention and inequalities across generations, and produce valuable insights to inform decisions to improve population health in Wales.”

Sarah Deeny, Assistant Director of Data Analytics at the Health Foundation, explains: 

“What has been clear throughout the COVID-19 crisis, is that high-quality and comprehensive data and information are often the key to solving our most pressing health and care issues. Data has played a fundamental role in understanding the challenges presented by the virus and in finding innovative ways to solve problems. But these complex challenges extend beyond the current crisis – the same innovation will be needed in future to ensure that health and care services meet people’s needs.”  

What next?

The DHEW team is already working on a number of bids with partners in Wales, including submissions for The Health Foundation’s Adopting Innovation programme and The Artificial Intelligence (AI) Award run by the Accelerated Access Collaborative (AAC) in partnership with NHSX and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) which has £140 million available over three years to accelerate the testing and evaluation of the most promising AI technologies which meet the strategic aims set out in the NHS Long Term Plan.

Helen Northmore added:

“What has become really clear over the last year to eighteen months is that there is a huge amount of incredibly talented people here in Wales with expertise in digital, AI and data but to be successful in these funding competitions, you need to have the right contacts to build the right partnerships, alongside the expertise in bid writing. That’s where we are able to offer our expertise, resources and contacts to help health and social care organisations in Wales put the strongest proposals for funding. We were delighted with the success of the Networked Data Lab bid and we look forward to working with partners on many more successful funding bids in the future.”

Check out the full project timeline