Our national network

There are 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) across England, established by NHS England in 2013 to spread of innovation at pace and scale - improving health and generating economic growth.

As the only bodies that connect the NHS and academic organisations, local authorities, the third sector and industry, we are catalysts that create the right conditions to facilitate change across whole health and social care economies, with a clear focus on improving outcomes for patients. This means we are uniquely placed to identify and spread health innovation quickly; driving the adoption and spread of innovative ideas and technologies across large populations.

Each AHSN works within its own area to develop projects, programmes and initiatives that reflect the diversity of our local populations and healthcare challenges. However, we all share the following priorities:

  • Promoting economic growth: fostering opportunities for industry to work effectively with the NHS
  • Diffusing innovation: creating the environment to identify and spread innovation at pace and scale, and supporting collaboration across boundaries to adopt and spread innovation at pace and scale
  • Improving patient safety: using our knowledge, expertise and networks to bring together patients, healthcare staff and partners to determine priorities and develop and implement solutions
  • Optimising medicine use: ensuring that medication is used to its maximum benefit – improving safety and making efficient use of NHS resources
  • Improving quality and reducing variation: by spreading best practice we increase productivity and reduce variation, thereby improving patient outcomes
  • Putting research into practice: our strong links with academia mean we are uniquely placed to support the translation of research into clinical practice
  • Collaborating on national programmes: our unified programmes focus on delivery of the SBRI Healthcare initiative (supporting SME interaction), the NHS Innovation Accelerator, Patient Safety Collaboratives and medicines optimisation

The Innovation Exchange

All 15 AHSNs support the regional import and exportof healthcare innovation through our Innovation Exchange, an AHSN coordinated approach to identify, select and support the adoption of innovations that improve our economy and patientslives.

The Innovation Exchange identifies innovations for the Accelerated Access Collaborative and for local adoption. The Accelerated Access Collaborative is a national partnership of organisations including NHS England, Department of Health and Social Care, Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, NICE, NHS Improvement and the AHSNs.

The Innovation Exchange has four structured elements: 

  • Needs definition - supporting our Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) and Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) to identify proven solutions to existing challenges.
  • Innovator support and signposting - The Innovation Pathway sets out the range of service offered.  There is a consistent and co-ordinated offer to innovators wherever they are identified in the system.
  • Real world validation - informed by regional and local need and seeks to provide the information and evidence needed to enable adoption of the innovation in a variety of settings.
  • Spread and adoption of supported innovations – supporting the adoption of innovations identified by the Accelerated Access Collaborative. It also identifies and supports the adoption of innovations on a regional and cross-regional basis.

Meridian is the West Midlands’ online healthcare innovation exchange, supporting the adoption of good practice and the sharing of lessons learned. Access Meridian here.