Frequently asked questions

Who is the NHS Innovation Accelerator (NIA) for?

The NIA is for mature innovations with an evidence base, ready to scale in the NHS, and where there is no easy or obvious mechanism for adoption. As such, there is a clear need for a national platform like the NIA to assist in overcoming systemic barriers to adoption at scale in the NHS.

The 2016/17 Call for Applications is seeking innovations that address one or more of the following three 2016 NIA Challenges:

  • Prevention
  • Earlier intervention
  • Long Term condition management

Individuals are eligible to apply from a range of organisations – NHS, University, industry, voluntary sector. The employing or host organisation needs to be established and beyond start up, but also requiring support through the NIA to expand within the NHS.

How was the focus of the 2016 NIA decided?

The three 2016 NIA Challenges were determined through desktop research and local engagement with patients, NHS stakeholders, AHSNs and NHS England, with a particular focus on the priorities of the Sustainability and Transformation Planning footprints, Vanguards and Test Beds.

What will be the application and selection process in 2016/17?

Applicants need to submit an application form detailing information about themselves and their skills, experience and competencies to spread an innovation as well as their innovation, the problem it addresses, the evidence as to its effectiveness and the strategy for scaling in the NHS.

Application forms will then be shortlisted by a minimum of four assessors drawn from a range of perspectives including clinical, patient, commercial and commissioning. Applications will be assessed on the basis of the applicant, the innovation, and confirmation that there is no straightforward nor obvious local mechanism for scaling; in other words there needs to be a clear reason as to why the applicant needs the support of the NIA.

Once shortlisted, applicants will be invited to a panel interview.  At the same time the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) will review all shortlisted applications.  After the interviews, a shortlisting panel chaired by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, Medical Director at NHS England, will assess the recommendations from each interview and agree which Fellows will be offered a place on the NIA in 2016/17.

At this stage, two references will be taken up for each Fellow – one of whom needs to be a senior representative from your employing organisation.  We will also undertake a period of due diligence and request, where relevant, two years of annual accounts, a list of company directors and any published annual report.  All Fellows will be asked to sign an agreement with UCLPartners before being formally announced as an NIA Fellow.  A version of this and on which wording the 2016 contract will be based can be viewed on the application page.  Applicants should check that they and their organisations would be happy to sign this contract before applying.

What are the key dates for the NIA Call in 2016?

The key dates are as follows:

Activity Date
NIA opens for applications 17 June 2016
Application deadline 1 August (5pm), 2016
Screening 2 August – 4 August 2016
Application form assessment 5 August – 5 September 2016
Shortlisting panel 12 September 2016
Invitation to interviews 14 September 2016
Interviews 21, 22, 23 September 2016
Decision making panel 4 October 2016
Outcomes communicated to applicants 7 October 2016
Contracts agreed

(Please see a version of the 2015 contract available on the website)

7 October – 30 October 2016
Launch event November 2016
Quarterly Events

(attendance mandatory by NIA Fellows)

9 November 2016

12 January 2017

12 April 2017

12 July 2017

NIA Summit Autumn 2017

I’ve read the Call for Applications and the Guide for Applicants but I still have further questions

If you have read all the published documents but still have questions, there are a number of webinars and face to face events you can join to find out more:

Weekly webinars

The weekly webinars are open to anyone without prior registration.  The webinars will provide detailed information about the application process and the NIA.  Slides will be made for these sessions and there will be an opportunity for Q&A.

Webinars sessions:

Date Time Joining details
Tuesday 21st June 11am -12 app: meeting code: 956-238-366
Phone access code 956-238-366#

Wednesday 29th June 2pm-3pm app: meeting code: 811-269-299
Phone access code 811-269-299#

Thursday 7th July 1pm-2pm app; meeting code: 554-075-835
Phone access code 554-075-835#
Tuesday 12th July 9am-10am app; meeting code: 228-498-019
Phone access code 228-498-019#
Friday 22nd July 10-11am app; meeting code: 198-763-332
Phone access code 198-763-332#
Thursday 28th July 4pm-5pm app; meeting code: 510-747-766
Phone access code 510-747-766#
Monday 1st August 9am-10am app; meeting code: 369-352-156
Phone access code 369-352-156#

How to join the webinars:

  • By computer: click on the appropriate link below.
  • By tablet: open the app and enter the appropriate meeting code below
  • By computer via internet:  Join the meeting, click the phone icon and select ‘Call via internet’. A small download might be required.
  • By phone:  United Kingdom, +44 330 088 2634 (Click here for Other international numbers available)

Face to face sessions

We are holding 2 face to face events designed to:

  • Provide an overview of the NIA and the application process
  • Give insights as to what makes a strong scaling plan in the NHS
  • Share learnings from the first year of the NHS Innovation Accelerator

Places are limited and you must register to attend these events:

Date Time Location Registration link
Friday 8th July 9:30am-12:30 The Health Foundation, 90 Long Acre, London WC2E 9RA
Wednesday 13th July 1pm-4pm Doubletree by Hilton Nottingham-Gateway, Nuthall Road, Nottingham, NG8 6AZ

What support does an NIA Fellow receive?

The ethos of the programme is to provide a range of support in response to the needs of NIA Fellows including a bespoke learning programme, mentorship and networking opportunities to equip them with the skills and attributes necessary to promote wider adoption.

Each NIA Fellow is provided with:

  • Access to a pool of mentors
  • Pairing with an AHSN
  • Quarterly learning events
  • Peer-to-peer support
  • Ad hoc specialist information sessions, as required (e.g., procurement, NHS commissioning, health economics, business case development etc.)
  • Navigation to existing innovation initiatives locally within AHSNs (e.g., SETsquared) and nationally (e.g., vanguards)
  • Access to a bursary of up to £30k

At the end of the initial 12 months, each Fellow should have the following in place:

  • Robust diffusion plan: A critically appraised, robust diffusion plan for the NHS, which they have made progress on implementing (e.g., new contracts signed, resources secured, etc.)
  • Expanded networks: Built a network of decision makers, ‘critical friends’ and other key stakeholders
  • Navigation of innovation opportunities: The ability to navigate innovation initiatives, support infrastructure and national levers
  • Expanded knowledge: Addressed critical knowledge gaps as agreed with their mentors/ lead AHSNs/ NIA core programme at the programme outset

Is the NIA about individuals or innovations?

Unlike other programmes, the NIA is both a fellowship programme (focused on capability building for individuals and in some cases their wider team) and also an accelerator of innovation adoption (providing a ‘lit runway’ for high impact innovations).

What is the role of a “lead AHSN” in the NIA? What is the time commitment?

All AHSNs are champions of the NIA programme.

The role of lead AHSN for a particular Fellow, will entail providing local networking, showcasing and championing to facilitate opportunities for local adoption of NIA innovations. It will also provide feedback and constructive advice as to the Fellow’s 12-week Sprint plans (e.g., diffusion strategies/ approaches) and how these could be strengthened. Furthermore AHSNs will navigate fellows to local innovation support infrastructure and information e.g., fellowships, training opportunities, IP and commercial expertise etc.

It is anticipated that this will entail fortnightly meetings at the beginning of the programme, which may then move to monthly, and also email/ telephone communication in between meetings.

We recognise that every Fellow will have a bespoke set of needs as will the level of support that an AHSN can provide.  As such there is a degree of flexibility as to what is provided by the lead AHSN, the mentor and the core NIA team.

What is the role of mentor?

The NIA Mentors bring a broad range of skills and experiences, and as such we try to match Fellows to mentors depending on their support needs.  This means Fellows might not be assigned a single mentor for the duration of the NIA but are more likely to be able to draw on a range of expertise from different mentors throughout the year.

It is expected that Mentor interactions with Fellows will include:

  • Introductions and representation to national leads e.g., National Clinical Directors, leads at NHS England, PHE etc.
  • Introductions to national charities with the influence to be able to forge national-level partnerships
  • Introductions to and championing of Fellows and their innovations to national level organisations and networks, e.g. the Association of UK University Hospitals, Royal Colleges etc.
  • Sharing personal insights and empathy around the journey of an ‘innovator in to practice’
  • Depending on the background of the mentor, sharing perspectives of either the NHS or commercial acumen to increase the Fellow’s understanding of how to engage key stakeholders
  • Skills based advice/ training/ information. For example:
  • Business case and pitching training for Fellows and potentially their wider company
  • Commercial advice as to optimum business models for a Fellow’s innovation and support for implementing alternative models

The pool of mentors will be expanded in 2016/17 following the experiences and identified needs of the Fellows in 2015/16.

What can I spend my bursary on?

Each Fellow will have access to a bursary of up to £30k.  The bursary is intended to support the scaling of your innovation and/ or your own personal development to support you in your scaling efforts.  You can also use your bursary for travel to NIA events.

The uses for the bursary are likely to fall into the following categories:

  • Personal development, including expert advice (eg: legal or commercial) or specific training courses, where not directly provided or available through the NIA
  • Enablement of effective engagement with key stakeholders, including organisation of meetings and events (eg: venue hire, refreshments, speakers, travel costs for potential adopters and patients etc.), development of engagement materials (eg: videoing, editing, designer costs etc.) and design of supporting diffusion tools (eg: design and production costs relating to training and marketing materials)
  • Innovation development and adaptions where these have been suggested through the NIA as enablers to diffusion
  • Evidence gathering and analysis including, for example, the application of health economics, market testing or technical analysis
  • Travel and other costs (eg: subsistence) directly relating to the participation by the NIA Fellow in the NIA

The bursary cannot be used to cover, for example:

  • The NIA Fellow’s salary or other related payroll costs
  • Any costs for services contracted from consultancy firms or other external agencies for the delivery of support otherwise available to the NIA Fellow via the NIA

How and when can I access the bursary?

The NIA year is structured around a series of four 12-week sprints, which support delivery of your overall scaling ambition.  At the beginning of each 12-week sprint, you will be asked to set out a plan for the coming 12 weeks including the type of support you need from the NIA.  As part of this, you can request to use your bursary but you will need to clearly show how it supports delivery of the 12-week sprint.

What is the role of the core NIA team?

The core NIA team provides administration and co-ordination for the accelerator including:

  • Working with the AHSNs and a range of supporters (e.g., UKTI, the Health Foundation etc.) to optimise the value of the NIA for Fellows and the wider NHS
  • Administering the selection, recruitment and contracting process of the NIA Fellows
  • Administering the launch event, quarterly events and year-end summit
  • Matching of Fellows to lead AHSNs and Mentors
  • Developing core materials, e.g. action plans and sprint templates
  • Identifying and meeting any gaps in the support package offered to Fellows
  • Providing secretariat for the NIA Programme Board and NIA Operational Group
  • Engaging with NHS England to optimise opportunities for the Fellows and to address systemic barriers
  • Providing support to the independent evaluators of the programme
  • Working with NHS England and AHSNs on communications around the NIA
  • Providing day to day support to the Fellows

Is the NIA for individuals only or can teams/ companies apply?

The NIA focusses on the development and support of individuals and therefore all applications must include a sole named applicant.  However, we recognise a range of skills are needed to scale an innovation and therefore learning events, expertise and support will be on offer to the lead applicant’s wider team where appropriate.

I’m from a start-up, can I apply to the NIA?

The NIA is for innovations that are both ready to scale across the NHS in England, and that have the necessary resources and team to scale across England over a 12 month period and beyond.  Therefore the NIA is looking to recruit SMEs and larger organisations, rather than Start-ups.

Do NIA Fellows need the support of an AHSN before they can apply to the NIA?

An application does not need the support of an AHSN prior to submitting an application form.  However, you may wish to engage your local AHSN to discuss your application and to seek advice on your scaling plans before submitting you application.

Furthermore, to be appointed, at least one AHSN must be willing to support the scaling of the innovation.  The NIA core team will co-ordinate this process. There is likely to be value in engaging your local AHSN to discuss your application and seek advice

What will I be spending the two days per week doing?

NIA Fellows needs to be able to commit two days per week to scaling their innovation as part of the NIA; these two days per week will include attendance at quarterly events, working up and implementing sprint plans, providing updates to the NIA team, meeting mentors and lead AHSNs etc.

For some Fellows this will be part of your normal jobs – where scaling their innovation is their everyday business.  For others, particularly those who are based in clinical roles, it might mean a different set of tasks from the day to day.  This could range from building compelling business case for intended purchasers, developing and executing a stakeholder engagement and marketing plan; building a network; developing a health economic case; presenting to target purchasers and so on.

We would expect the two days per week will vary for each Fellow depending on the type of innovation and your strategy for scaling.

Who are the Mentors on the NIA?

The following were Mentors during 2015/16. We are in the process of confirming their continued involvement as well as adding further Mentors.

  • Dr Sam Barrell, Chief Executive, Musgrove Park Hospital
  • Prof Sir John Burn, Non-Executive Director, NHS England
  • Professor the Lord Darzi, Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation, Imperial College London
  • Professor Donal O’Donoghue, Medical Director, Greater Manchester AHSN
  • Adrian Downing, Health Care Director, Concentra
  • David Fillingham, Chief Executive of Advancing Quality Alliance (AQuA)
  • Dr Eliot Forster, Chairman Med City Ltd
  • Noel Gordon, Non-Executive Director, NHS England
  • Samantha Jones, Director of New Models of Care at NHS England
  • Professor the Lord Kakkar, Business Ambassador for Healthcare and Sciences, UKTI
  • Dr Thomas Lee, Chief Medical Officer, Press Ganey
  • Professor Andrew Morris, Chairman and Centre Director, Farr Institute @ Scotland
  • Dr Caroline Sayer, Chair, Camden Clinical Commissioning Group
  • Dr Robert Winter, Small Business Research Initiative and Health Enterprise East
  • Professor Tony Young, National Clinical Director for Innovation

Is there ever a circumstance when an NIA Fellow could be asked to leave the NIA?

The bar for NIA Fellows/ innovations is high, and the requirement for full participation needs to be demonstrated by all Fellows throughout the programme, with a consequence of exiting the programme if requirements are not met.

The expectations placed upon Fellows is detailed within the Call for Applications and also within the contract Fellows are required to sign, along with their organisations, to formally join the NIA.

As part of this commitment, Fellows agree to spend two days per week on the NIA and are required to attend the launch and four quarterly events.  At the start of the NIA, they will develop and agree a scaling plan with their lead AHSN and the core NIA team.  As part of this, Fellows agree a minimum set of activities they will deliver during the coming 12 months.

Fellows may be asked to leave the programme in the circumstance that they:

  • Break any condition in the NIA contract
  • Are unable to attend the launch and/or quarterly events
  • Do not deliver on agreed activities during the course of the NIA
  • Behaviour in a manner unacceptable to the NIA and its ethos.

How does the NIA differ from the Clinical Entrepreneurs programme?

The Clinical Entrepreneurs programme provides specialty fellowship training for Trainee Doctors, in its first year, who have a great idea for a commercial, social or charitable enterprise.  Fellows on the Clinical Entrepreneurs programme will be supported to develop entrepreneurial skills alongside their clinical training.

In contrast, the NIA, is for anyone with a mature, evidence-based innovation that is ready to scale and provides the support to both develop the individual and to scale their innovation at pace.

I do not think the NIA is right for me. Where else can I go for support for my innovation in the health sector?

The Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) 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.  There are 15 across the country and these should be your first port of call for support with your innovation.

Please visit to identify your local AHSN.

For more information, please do not hesitate to contact or tweet us your question @NHSaccelerator.