The Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) Healthcare programme

An evaluation of programme activities, outcomes and impacts

by Catherine A. Lichten, Calum MacLure, Anton Spisak, Sonja Marjanovic, Jon Sussex

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Research Questions

  1. What does the SBRI Healthcare programme do and how does it fit into the wider funding landscape for health-related innovation in the UK.
  2. What is the range of outcomes and impacts generated by the programme and its awardees.
  3. What are the barriers and enablers to achieving impact?
  4. The challenges and opportunities for the future based on the comments of interviewees and survey respondents.

This study explores the contribution of the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) Healthcare programme to innovation in the NHS (National Health Service). It was commissioned by the UK Department of Health Policy Research Programme. It is related to a wider, two-year study of innovation in the NHS being conducted by RAND Europe and the University of Manchester, but represents a discrete stream of work.

In this report, we introduce the background and context for the SBRI Healthcare study, describe the interview and survey methods used. and discuss the main results and conclusions.

Our survey and interview findings show that the SBRI Healthcare programme is providing effective support for small companies to develop innovations that address NHS needs. The programme has a number of strengths, including low administrative burdens for applicants and awardees, effective processes for identifying and articulating needs, and a beneficial provision of health economics support in Phase 1. Addressing NHS needs, however, entails going beyond innovation development to include uptake and use of the innovations. This step constitutes a fundamental challenge and will require collaboration with other innovation programmes.

Key Findings

Our survey and interview findings show that the SBRI Healthcare programme is providing effective support for small companies to develop innovations that address NHS needs.

The programme has a number of strengths, including low administrative burdens for applicants and awardees, effective processes for identifying and articulating needs, and a beneficial provision of health economics support in Phase 1.

However, addressing NHS needs entails going beyond innovation development to include uptake and use of the innovations. This step constitutes a fundamental challenge and will require collaboration with other innovation programmes.

Part of this could include:

  • Ensuring that the AHSNs are well informed about who the SBRI Healthcare-supported companies are in their region and their stage of development.
  • Ensuring there is clear guidance for the AHSNs about how they could support SBRI-supported companies.
  • Providing networking opportunities for companies to learn from one another.
  • Explore opportunities to engage with other national and regional funding programmes.

The SBRI Healthcare programme performs a valuable role for the NHS in the early-stage innovation funding landscape. Going forward it will be important to consider how best to coordinate the SBRI Healthcare programme with wider policy developments (including the Accelerated Access Review) and initiatives to progress the adoption, diffusion and scale-up in the NHS of the innovations it supports.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Methods

  • Chapter Three

    Results

  • Chapter Four

    Conclusions

  • Appendix A

    Report on survey of companies that applied unsuccessfully for SBRI Healthcare support

  • Appendix B

    Report on SBRI Healthcare programme stakeholder interviews

  • Appendix C

    Report on survey of companies that received SBRI Healthcare support

  • Appendix D

    Detailed methods for interviews with SBRI Healthcare award recipients

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was commissioned by the United Kingdom's Department of Health Policy Research Programme and conducted by RAND Europe and the University of Manchester.

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