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 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 at pace and scale; driving the adoption and spread of innovative ideas and technologies across large populations.

Although small organisations – which ensures we remain flexible and responsive to emerging opportunities and challenges – we lead large regional networks. Hence our impact rests in our ability to bring people, resources and organisations together quickly, delivering benefits that could not be achieved alone.

The impact we are making is already clear: for example a survey of AHSNs commissioned by NHSE found that 73% of respondents would recommend working with us. 

Each AHSN works within its own area to develop 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.

Ours is not a short-term challenge but as our 2015 AHSN Network impact report demonstrates we are already making a difference for patients and the public, for innovators, for clinicians and for the healthcare system.

Please follow the links below to find out more about how ASHNs are supporting system-wide health transformation.

In March 2016, the Association of British Healthcare Industries (ABHI) and the AHSN Network announced work on a formal programme of activity between the two organisations. The AHSN Network is pleased to endorse the ABHI Code of Business Practice and recommend its adoption by the medtech industry. The work will lead to enhanced engagement between the AHSNs and ABHI’s members. Early projects will include patient safety and plans to support the future sustainability of the networks. You can read more about the Code of Business Practice on the ABHI website.

The Innovation Exchange

All 15 AHSNs support the regional ‘import and export’ of healthcare innovation through our Innovation Exchange. 

The Innovation Exchange is an AHSN coordinated approach to identify, select and support the adoption of innovations that improve our economy and patients’ lives.

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
  • Innovator support and signposting
  • Real world validation 
  • Spread and adoption of supported innovations.  

Needs definition

We support our Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) and Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) to identify proven solutions to existing challenges.

Innovator support and signposting

Innovator support is provided by all AHSNs. 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

Real world validation is 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

The Innovation Exchange supports 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.

Funded by the government’s Office for Life Sciences, the Innovative Exchange builds on AHSNs’ unique expertise and cross-sector connections, enabling us to identify common challenges and quickly bring people and organisations together to develop, test and spread proven innovation.

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


Click on the interactive map below for more details of all AHSNs.