Digital Essential Partnerships: a guide for charities working with digital technology companies

Digital technologies are transforming our health and care, offering limitless possibilities to improve and save lives. Many charities are aware of this potential, with commissioned research for our ‘On the Front Foot’ report highlighting accelerating digital health as one of the nine key challenges faced by medical research charities today. But as industry pushes ahead, buoyed by the clear appetite for digital health innovation, medical research charities are left to consider what their place is in this fast-moving environment. 

Firstly, it must be acknowledged that charities can bring something extremely valuable to the table: unparalleled insights into what patients need. Paired with the resources and expertise of tech companies, charities can make great strides in digital health. The key is collaboration. Collaboration not only between industry and charities, but a tripartite partnership with the patient voice embedded throughout the process.

This guide aims to offer practical advice to support charities looking to work with tech companies in digital health. From the steps to take before finding a partner, through to formalising the partnership agreement, it provides a template for the collaborative process. We are aware that this needs to be paired with an awareness of the ethical issues surrounding digital health work, which is why a series of questions have been developed to ask tech industry partners based on our digital health ethics framework. We hope that this guide will facilitate our member charities in accelerating digital health to deliver benefits to patients sooner.

Several of our members’ tech partnerships have already begun bearing fruit, as demonstrated by the array of case studies included in this guide. In addition to such industry partnerships, more and more charities are finding diverse ways to be involved in the digital health sector.

One way is by influencing funding: Asthma UK announced a partnership with Innovate UK, the British Heart Foundation is working with the Alan Turing Institute to fund six data science projects, and Orthopaedic Research UK are teaming up with the healthcare accelerator HS to fund start-ups. Another approach is partnering with research bodies at the forefront of the field: Cystic Fibrosis Trust collaborated with the Alan Turing Institute on a cutting-edge predictive algorithm, and the Alzheimer’s Society worked with the University of Surrey and an NHS Foundation Trust on a machine-learning powered at-home monitoring system.

Whichever approach is taken, it is clear that medical research charities can and should be cementing their role as key players in the development of digital health solutions to improve lives.

  

Aisling Burnand MBE

Chief Executive

Association of Medical Research Charities

 

Notes and acknowledgements

We thank the AMRC Digital Advisory Group for their helpful comments in preparation of this document.

  • Julie Dodd (Parkinson’s UK) chair
  • Danil Mikhailov (Wellcome Trust)
  • Stephanie Parker (Stroke Association)
  • Gaia Marcus (Parkinson’s UK)
  • David Ramsden (Cystic Fibrosis)
  • Catherine Howe (Cancer Research UK)
  • Said Dajani (Diabetes UK)
  • Carol Bewick (AMRC)

We thank all the charities and companies who completed our survey on collaborative working and provided case studies.

Notice

This guide is intended to provide a broad introduction to collaborative working between charities and digital technology companies and to raise and discuss related questions. As a result, please be aware that AMRC cannot take responsibility for any actions taken with reference to this report. Each charity must consider their own circumstances and priorities before deciding on its most appropriate course of action. The legal position surrounding collaborative working, particularly in relation to agreements and contracts is complex and this document is not a substitute for specific legal advice.

For a PDF version of this report and if you have any questions please contact our Digital Project Manager Lotte.