South West Academic Health Science Network welcomes David Connell’s independent review of SBRI Healthcare

The SW AHSN welcomes yesterday’s (27 November) release of an independent review by David Connell of SBRI Healthcare, the NHS England funded programme, recognising the critical role to the success of the programme played by 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs).

The independent review titled “Leveraging public procurement to grow the innovation economy: an independent review of the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI)” provides SBRI Healthcare and NHS England an excellent validation to the credibility, key benefits and management of the programme.

The report sought to highlight the “well managed programme” at NHS England and identified the experienced team working on defining challenges that need addressing. David Connell identifies the NHS England programme as “the best role model” and recommends the programme led by the AHSNs be developed and built upon.

Karen Livingstone, National Director of SBRI Healthcare, said: “I was delighted to read the report by David Connell: Leveraging Public Procurement to Grow the Innovation Economy released today as part of the government’s industrial strategy to recongise the impact and provide greater validation of the programme to the NHS, industry and patients.”

Key recommendations from the report include:

Recommendation 1: A New Central SBRI Fund 

Government should plan for the annual value of SBRI contracts awarded by spending departments to grow to around £250m per annum over six years. Assuming well established SBRI programmes continue to be funded directly by departments at roughly current rates, this equates to Central Fund expenditure growing to £120m by 2020/21 and £200m by 2023/24.

Recommendation 2: A National SBRI Fund Board

The fund should be overseen by a small National SBRI Board reporting to the Cabinet Office and comprising officials bringing commercial, innovation and operational perspectives from the public sector, including Innovate UK, together with individuals from the private sector with business and venture finance expertise.

Recommendation 3: Phase 1 and Phase 2 Funding Guidelines

SBRI contracts financed through the central fund must be sufficient to take projects to a meaningful milestone. The amounts required will depend on the task. But in general programme guidelines for Phase 1 and Phase 2 contracts (£50-£100k, and £250k-£1m respectively) should be closely adhered to.

Recommendation 4: Selective New Phase 3 Contracts for Evaluations and Trial Deployments

SBRI programme bids should include an element for Phase 3 funding where appropriate.  However, contracts should be awarded very selectively, and only when the viability of the technology has already been well demonstrated and there is strong interest in an operational scale evaluation by prospective customers.

Recommendation 5 Embedding Best Practice Innovation Programme Management within Departments

The National SBRI Board should ensure that the SBRI programmes it funds are fully embedded within departments and operated in a systematic manner using best practice, innovation programme management processes. They must be directed, managed and supported in a way that maximises the probability of commercial procurement and commercialisation of successful developments.

Recommendation 6 Transparency, Monitoring and Evaluations

All SBRI programmes receiving central funding should be required to provide details of awards, including recipients, contract amounts and summary project descriptions through a publicly searchable database similar to SBIR’s TECH-Net. Future monitoring information obligations should be included in SBRI contracts with companies.

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