Professor Jackie Oldham is a physiology researcher, an academic by background. During the course of her work trying to bring her own innovations out of the lab and into the market, she “vowed that it would never be as difficult for anybody else.” That led her to join Health Innovation Manchester and the Oxford Road Corridor, where she is now the Director of Strategic Innovation.

This week she was in Nashville as part of a UK trade delegation. While they were here, Professor Oldham, along with Health:Further parent company Briovation, announced a partnership to facilitate transatlantic investment and acceleration of promising health and healthcare companies.

Professor Oldham spoke with Health:Further CEO Marcus Whitney to discuss why Manchester is such an interesting, unique and exciting place to be involved in healthcare innovation.

*quotes have been lightly edited for clarity

Marcus Whitney: How did you find this calling to be involved in Health Innovation Manchester?

Professor Jackie Oldham: You look at our population and see you’ve got 3 million people in Greater Manchester. these are really poorly people in sick health. They’re not exercising, are obese, are smoking, not really taking care of themselves. And coming out my initial area of interest in musculoskeletal rehab [I’m asking] ‘Why is that the case? What can we do to help these people and how do we drive a wellness agenda alongside a health agenda and a social agenda, and look at all these factors together.


MW: Tell us about Manchester.

JO: Manchester’s population is three million people, [it’s] an incredibly heterogenous population. It’s very dense. Those three million people live within a 15 mile radius. And then within a 50 mile radius we have 15 million people. A lot of industries around healthcare, academia, tourism, hospitality, whereas traditionally it’s been around cotton mills and industry. So there’s been a real shift, but it’s a community where there’s a real drive to do something different and put Manchester on the map.

MW: Explain what has happened recently in Manchester with the NHS.

JO: We’ve got a really sick population, some of the sickest people in Europe. We’ve been saying for some time that we’ve got to do something about it. Really, by all the leaders in the city getting together and saying, it’s not just a matter of the healthcare providers thinking about this. It’s about local governments, academia, industry.

So everyone has been coming together debating what we can do differently. As a consequence of our deliberations, NHS England have agreed to devolve the health and social care budget to us at a local level in Greater Manchester and see what we can do that’s different.

It’s brilliant, and the challenge for us is that we’ve got a budget of £6bn per annum, but it’s  £2bn less than we believe we truly need to deliver care for the future. We have an aging population, we’ve got a very sick population, we’ve got discrepancies in health outcomes.


MW: What was the tipping point that drove the leaders to come together to create this?

JO: There have been a couple of big tipping points in Manchester. There’s been a major event, a bomb [at the O2 Arena], and that acts as a catalyst for change. As horrific as it is, there’s something about the rising up of the community spirit and the sense of social responsibility, we need to look after each other. When you come to Manchester, there’s that sense of community and it’s through the DNA of everything we do. One of our universities is one of the very few that has, as a pillar, social responsibility alongside teaching and academic responsibility.


MW: Tell us about the different players in this project.

JO: If you came to Manchester five years ago, you’d have been faced with an acronym soup. People were wanting to collaborate with us in the innovation space but they didn’t know where to intersect the system. So we looked to simplify.

We created Health Innovation Manchester, which is the innovation arm of health and social devolution. In effect it’s end-to-end from unmet healthcare needs to accelerating innovation into healthcare.

Within that you have the dense innovation district that sits at the heart of everything we do. You’ve got the physical place which is called Mancheter’s Oxford Road Corridor. It’s the road where you have the biggest clinical academic campus in Europe and the critical mass, this academic powerhouse.

And then we have an organization called TRUSTECH, which in effect does a lot of the doing, the facilitating of innovation into healthcare alongside Health Innovation Manchester and Oxford Road Corridor. So we’ve distilled this acronym soup down to three players


MW: The process moving from unmet needs to new innovation, adoption, absorption, that’s part of the devolution of NHS to Manchester, right?

JO: Absolutely. It’s deriving one from another. It’s understanding the needs of our population, and then saying ‘we will address those needs.’ So it’s a “needs pull” model rather than an “innovation push” model. So everything is aligned to address the needs of that population. We’ve got 3 million people. It’s such a good ecosystem to test on the basis of a needs pull model. We’re not just talking about Manchester. Ultimately, we want this to be scalable.

MW: One thing that sticks out is how “health and social care” is said as a single statement [in the UK] whereas [in the US] they’re very very separate things. Talk about what that’s like in the UK.

JO: It is much more integrated but it still is siloed budgets within the NHS. That’s where I think we’ve got this unique opportunity in Manchester, to pull on that budgeting and to truly think about an integration of health and social care. That’s the aspiration to be thinking in terms of what clustering and integration can look like. You can’t have one without the other.

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