Learning by doing - scaling innovation in the NHS

NHS Innovation Accelerator

With NHS innovation accelerator hosted by ucl partners, London, UK

We’re working at the cutting edge of innovation in the NHS, supporting the NHS Innovation Accelerator and its Fellows to scale their innovations, and learning what it takes to do so successfully.

The problem

207 CCGs in England

responsible for commissioning health care services in their local area

0 single route

to scaling innovation across the NHS

The health needs of the British population are changing. People are living longer, with multiple and complex health problems. The resources available to support people are changing too. Digital technologies are on the rise, and budgets are constrained. In this context, more of the same is not going to hack it. We need new ways of caring for people. The NHS aspires to be “one of the best places in the world to test innovations”. And yet generating great new ideas is the easy bit – supporting them to scale and spread, and become the ‘new normal’ is the real challenge.

“We are committed to accelerating the quicker adoption of cost-effective innovation.” NHS Five Year Forward View

Workshop attendees Workshop top trumps activity NHS Innovation Accelerator workshop

The NHS Innovation Accelerator (NIA) was established to help ‘create the conditions and cultural change necessary for proven innovations to be adopted faster and more systematically through the NHS’. It is an NHS England initiative delivered in partnership with the country’s 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs), who are responsible for spreading innovation at ‘pace and scale’. In its first two years it has supported high potential innovations to flourish and grow – from Health Unlocked, a social network for health where people with similar health backgrounds can share information and advice, to Coordinate My Care, a multidisciplinary, online urgent care plan for end of life care. Penny Newman, whose innovation Health Coaching trains clinicians to support people with long term conditions, has secured £500,000 as an NIA Fellow to spread the use of Health Coaching across the country. Around 3200 clinicians have been trained or are scheduled for Health Coach training.

Innovation Unit helped to design the programme, drawing on our experience of running national innovation programmes, and our expertise in what it takes to grow innovation successfully. As learning partner to the programme, we have been working alongside the programme since it began in 2015, supporting the fellows to learn from each other, and extracting real time insights on scale and spread to inform the future strategy of the programme board, composed of all 15 Academic Health Science Networks across England.

Our impact

25 Fellows

with innovations to improve patient care


additional NHS providers and commissioners using NIA innovations

£28.6 million

secured in external funding


innovations selling internationally

With the NIA we have been asking the question: how can the supply of innovation be matched to demand for new solutions in the NHS? We have been supporting fellows to answer this key question in their own work by learning from each other, from innovation research, and from a decade of Innovation Unit experience. Peer-coaching, case study analysis and evidence-based frameworks have all enabled Fellows to develop their own skills and effectiveness. By capturing what they are learning about how to successfully scale and spread innovation, we are generating insight, tools and products for the rest of the NHS.