Horizon scanning and demand signalling

Horizon scanning and demand signalling are key priorities for the Accelerated Access Collaborative  and the NHS. The Horizon scanning and demand signalling team works with a range of stakeholders to identify the research and innovation opportunities which have the potential to transform care in high priority clinical areas, where innovations can make a positive impact for large communities. It can typically take a long time before innovations are used as part of a patient’s care or treatment plan; the Horizon scanning and demand signalling team helps to speed up this process by identifying gaps in research and advising where new innovations can help to transform care pathways.

The team provides the following services.

Research prioritisation

Research prioritisation is the process of identifying the most important research questions and innovation challenges that need addressing to deliver against the ambitions set out in the NHS Long Term Plan.

Work on research prioritisation paused during the early stage of the pandemic and restarted in 2022, with an initial focus on mental health, learning disability and autism, and stroke. Throughout this process, we engaged with a wide range of stakeholders including national policy teams, clinicians, charities, patients, carers, and academics. Together, we identified specific areas of health needs where research is needed. This work resulted in the publication of reports which are used to signal the NHS’s research needs to funders and researchers. The first set of reports are:

At the end of 2022, almost £1 million funding was allocated to further develop 10 innovations to help improve health and care services for autistic people and people with a learning disability, some of which directly address the research questions identified as part of the demand signalling process.  At the beginning of 2023, a further £11 million was allocated to 7 innovations to support stroke, cardiovascular and respiratory disease. The research priorities addressed in the stroke demand signalling report were pivotal in shaping these winning innovations.

In May 2024, the Research demand signalling: mental health nursing report was published identifying the high-level priority areas for research in the field of mental health nursing and supports the delivery of the Chief Nursing Officer’s Strategic Plan for Research.

Targeted horizon scanning

Horizon scanning helps us to better understand emerging trends and early-stage technologies. The process of horizon scanning is to provide a clear view of new innovations, drugs and technologies, which have the potential to improve care for patients.

During 2022/23, the team completed a range of scans to better understand drugs and medical devices in the pipeline for a range of clinical areas, including:

  • Antimicrobial resistance: The team completed a series of scans to identify emerging innovations which can diagnose infections and enable treatment at an earlier stage, with the most appropriate antimicrobial treatments.
  • Advanced therapy medicinal products (ATMPs): ATMPs include a range of medicines which treat the root cause of diseases and disorders by repairing or regenerating organs, tissues, cells, and genes. The ATMP horizon scan will be used to ensure that the NHS is prepared to deliver innovative technologies before they are approved by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence.
  • Artificial intelligence: This scan helped to improve understanding of which artificial intelligence products are currently being used in the UK on a research or commercial basis and to determine the products providers are currently using.

For more information, please contact our team.