Group photo of LEAP Digital Health Hub university partners

Exeter is part of a consortium of universities across the South West of England and Wales that have come together to form a brand new Digital Health Hub which will elevate the region’s digital health.  

LEAP (Leadership, Engagement, Acceleration & Partnership), a groundbreaking Digital Health Hub, has launched to catalyse innovation, research, and collaboration in the South West of England and Wales. Funded by the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and led by the University of Bristol, the £4.11 million hub is set to revolutionise the region’s digital health landscape.

Bringing together five leading regional universities, including the University of Bristol, University of Bath, the University of the West of England (UWE), Cardiff University, and the University of Exeter (including NIHR Applied Research Collaboration South West Peninsula [PenARC]), along with Health Data Research UK (HDR UK), LEAP aims to build on the strengths of each of the Hub’s institutional partners to offer unique opportunities for training, research, and partnership in digital health.

Alongside the core institutional partners, LEAP’s partnership network extends to 21 supporting companies nationally, seven NHS Trusts & Health Boards, four social care organisations, five Local Authorities, Health Innovation West of England, and the award-winning business incubator SETsquared.

The Hub’s objectives have been co-produced by its partner network – surfacing unmet health and care needs, shaping and nurturing new collaborative research projects that bring together new partnerships of industry, academia, patients, carers and healthcare professionals. By engaging with local communities, the region’s health and social care organisations, and with industry partners nationally, LEAP aims to lead and shape the international agenda in digital health.

Over three years, the Hub will deliver a unique portfolio of training as part of its Skills and Knowledge Programme, leveraging the expertise from LEAP’s university partners, including the UK’s only Centre for Doctoral Training in Digital Health and Care at the University of Bristol. Courses are intended for professional part-time learners with a range of levels and topics to reflect the diversity of learners in the digital health community. In addition to a bespoke training catalogue, LEAP learners will have access to a variety of other benefits, including networking events with NHS and industry and career development opportunities. LEAP’s first courses are now open for booking, visit to register.

Alongside the Hub’s Skills and Knowledge Programme, the LEAP’s Research and Fellowship Programmes will pilot new mechanisms for doing research and will develop future leaders. The Hub will be funding collaborative pilot research projects and fellowship schemes through a number of call over the next three years. The first calls are due to be announced on the Hub’s website in Spring 2024.

LEAP’s Director, Professor Ian Craddock based at Bristol’s School of Engineering Mathematics and Technology, commented: “The Hub and our partners see this as a unique opportunity to make a step change in the field of digital health, bringing together and funding new relationships across academia, industry, health and social care”.

Professor Krasimira Tsaneva-Atanasova, Vice-President and Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Impact at the University of Exeter, said: “I’m thrilled to be part of this transformative initiative bringing together diverse expertise to address pressing healthcare challenges. I am confident it will drive innovation, shape the future of healthcare, and make a meaningful difference to people’s lives.”

Professor Martin Pitt, Professor of Applied Healthcare Modelling and Data Science at the University of Exeter, said: “We are delighted to be engaged with the LEAP Hub and look forward to working creatively with our partners across the region. The collaborative harnessing of our expertise and skills will undoubtedly make a major contribution to the application and impact of digital healthcare and ultimately improve the lives and welfare of our population.”

Katherine Freeman, Senior Portfolio Manager at EPSRC, commented: “We have invested £16.5 million in 5 new digital health hubs across England, including the LEAP Hub, which will promote knowledge and skills sharing across a range of partners. We are excited to work with LEAP and the other Hubs and see the innovative digital health solutions the hubs will deliver, which will improve healthcare outcomes for patients.”

Dr Joanna Jenkinson, Director of GW4, commented: “The GW4 Alliance universities share a wealth of complementary expertise, enabling our institutions to support the LEAP Digital Health Hub in developing innovative, new technologies for understanding, preventing, diagnosing and managing some of society’s most pressing health challenges. We are delighted to be collaborating with our fellow Hub partners to drive novel approaches which will have the potential to transform the UK’s health sector.”

The hub is one of five new Digital Health Hubs created with £16.5 million funding from EPSRC.

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