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Hopping Across The North East From Hub To Hub

Dynamo cluster planning for healthy future

ByRob Lawson

Nov 6, 2021

AFTER its first successful year, a regional health tech cluster is planning for the future.

The health and social care tech cluster was founded by Dynamo with sponsorship from CGI, one of the largest independent IT and business consulting services firms in the world. The cluster, which has more than 40 members, aims to support organisations and build a peer-to-peer network that supports and showcases regional talent in the sector, while working collaboratively to develop and share best practice.

Members of the cluster include industry solutions providers such as Difrent, Clievert, Enigma Interactive, Gliff.ai, Opencast, Waymark IT and XR Medical, as well as healthcare organisations such as the Great North Air Ambulance and NHS Business Services Authority, and representatives across academia from the regional universities and colleges.

Emma Whitenstall, who leads the cluster for Dynamo, explained: “After a successful year developing the cluster through networking, consultation and collaboration, we achieved our initial goal of gaining direct access to the NHS, through the Integrated Care Systems (ICS) Digital Strategy Group.

“This brings a unique insight into the unmet needs of the North East and North Cumbria ICS which can be addressed through digital solutions. By working together with each of the Trusts, we will encourage a ‘buy local’ mindset, boosting the regional economy and resulting in new products, services and jobs across the SME landscape.

“Over the past year we created individual workstreams, led by our members, looking at five key areas: automation and AI; patient and staff experience; population health, and access to the NHS for SMEs.

“Plans for the next 12 months will focus on collaborative working across the group to tackle priority areas of unmet need in health and social care, through the relationships that have been built over the last year with key regional groups such as the ICS Digital Strategy Group and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS). Patient backlog and waiting lists will be the first area to be explored during a time when the NHS is at breaking point.

“The group is advised by a steering group which originated from collective interest from the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and key regional healthcare and digital organisations to develop a health-tech network. The steering group is led by Russ Watkins, Commercial Director at the Academic Health Science Network.

“Thanks to a further year of sponsorship from CGI, we’re now planning our aims and activity for the next year.”

Peter Daykin, CEO and co-founder of Wordnerds explained how the cluster works in practice: “When we realised the NHS were a great potential client of our software, we had absolutely no idea where to start. The whole organisation just seems so nebulous and impenetrable. Dynamo’s health and social care tech cluster gave us a door in. A credible platform from which to engage the right people, both in the NHS and the wider healthcare sector.

“Dynamo allowed us to meet the people in the sector that we were relevant for, to talk to them about the big problems that Wordnerds can help them solve. The cluster also helped us to understand why and how we might be useful to them and to build credibility with them through our patient experience project that we ran with the help of our wonderful partners at CGI. A few months later we closed our first ever contract with the NHS and are confident about expanding further into the sector.”

Kieren Lane, Director Consulting Services, Health and Social Care for CGI in the North of England said: “We are thrilled to continue to support the great work of the Dynamo health tech cluster. The last year has been a fantastic experience setting the foundation of our work in the North East health sector. In planning for next year we are going to be bringing the best of CGI to address the health and care sector challenges of the region through Dynamo and the health tech cluster. We look forward to another year of working together.”

Dynamo North East is a business-led organisation with the core mission of ‘Growing the north east tech economy through collaboration, innovation, skills and noise.’ With more than 160 members, it is made up of IT organisations, large corporate employers in the region, consultants, technology hubs, education providers, local government and suppliers to the industry.

Dynamo is part funded by the ERDF as part of the Catalysing Innovation 2021-23 in North East Clusters project, delivered by the Innovation SuperNetwork.