A consortium of universities from across the South West of England and Wales have come together to form a brand new Digital Health Hub which will elevate the region’s digital health capability through leadership, engagement, acceleration and partnership (LEAP).

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 (HDRUK), 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.

"LEAP represents a significant milestone in advancing digital health capabilities in the South West of England and Wales. By leveraging the collective expertise of academia and industry partners, we are really excited to be part of an effort with the potential to unlock new avenues for research, innovation, and partnership, ultimately enhancing the region's healthcare ecosystem,” said Professor Christos Vasilakis of the University of Bath School of Management.

Professor Vasilakis is director of the University of Bath’s Centre for Healthcare Innovation and Improvement (CHI²), which leads and explores multidisciplinary research into health and care systems, and ways to improve them.

"As one of five new digital health hubs across England, we are really excited to be a part of LEAP. This will further cement and strengthen Bath’s expertise in the development of innovative digital technologies for healthcare,” added CHI² member Professor David Ellis, who leads one of Bath’s Beacons that focuses on the cultural, economic and psychological value of new and emerging forms of data.

Alongside the core institutional partners, the LEAP 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.

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 is one of five new Digital Health Hubs created with £16.5 million funding from the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).