Dr Katherine Boylan

Director of Innovation, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust

Dr Katherine Boylan is Director of Innovation at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT), the biggest NHS trust in the country.

Tell us more about your role at the Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust.

My job means overseeing innovation activities within MFT, part of the wider Research and Innovation (R&I) function. The innovation function supports intellectual property and commercialisation; adoption of novel technologies; strategic partnerships; a portfolio of strategic programmes; and the interaction with the co-located companies across the Citylabs Innovation District. I also sit on the NICE Medical Technologies Advisory Committee.

What do you enjoy most about working in your sector?

The variety – there are no two days the same working within NHS innovation! Likewise, I am lucky enough to be able to work with colleagues from across a range of sectors – other NHS organisations, universities, industry and national organisations. I never get bored.

How important is innovation within your sector?

Incredibly important. It probably goes without saying that these are incredibly challenging times as we recover from the COVID pandemic, and associated backlog of elective activity. All of this is against the background of a population which is getting older and sicker. The NHS also faces significant workforce and funding issues. All of these things require the NHS to do things differently, do things better – innovation can help us do this.

Ultimately, everyone working in the NHS is looking to deliver patient benefit – regardless of their role – the NHS looks to innovate to deliver benefit for our patients and the populations we serve.

What professional achievement are you most proud of?

I’m proud of the fact, that since I’ve been in post, the MFT Innovation Team has grown from 5 people to 14 since 2020. This has been possible through our success with key strategic funding awards – for example, the Health Foundation Innovation Hub award 2021, and the upcoming NIHR HealthTech Research Centre starting on April 1, 2024. I’m so proud of playing a role in our success in these awards which have only been possible as the result of a collaborative efforts across the Trust and wider Manchester ecosystem.

What are the challenges of being a woman working in your sector?

The NHS itself is very diverse in terms of gender balance, although generally this isn’t always the case in technical or data/digital roles. It can be disconcerting being the only woman in a meeting which happens more often than you might expect.

What advice would you give to other women working in your sector?

Know that your voice is as important as anyone else’s so do not hesitate to give your perspective.

What would you say were the key challenges in your sector that currently prevent innovation moving forward?

The demands on colleagues across the NHS are greater than ever, making innovation difficult to prioritise. Also, finding funding to do something new is always challenging.

Do you find any particular challenges as a woman working in the North of England?

I’m not sure there any challenges particular to women working in the North of England – if there are, these are mitigated by the collegiality and can-do attitude displayed by partners and colleagues across the North.

You can follow Katherine on X (formerly Twitter) at @hugbub and MFT R&I at @MFT_Research


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