Eating disorder app launched through new Swansea University innovation project

£13.5million project to pioneer research has been launched

 A £13.5million project which brings together academics, clinicians and industry to pioneer research into cutting-edge health technologies is now up and running.

 Welsh Government Finance Secretary, Mark Drakeford, said: “This project will stimulate innovation in the NHS, turning new ideas into improved health services, while also paving the way for new jobs and business opportunities.

“This is another good example of how EU funds – combined with Welsh Government support – are supporting research, innovation and science in Wales.”

Led by Swansea University through the ARCH partnership, AgorIP is working with the NHS and industry across Wales to turn innovative research into new products and services.

The  project which was backed by the Welsh Government and the European  Regional Development Fund last year aims to support the transformation of research with the potential for commercialisation in universities and health boards. Agor – which in Welsh means “open” – and IP which stands for “Intellectual Property” aims to encourage and support everyone working in the NHS in Wales to turn their ideas into reality.

Dr Gerry Ronan, from Swansea University, is leading the project. He said: “This is another positive example of how Swansea University’s collaboration with the NHS can help drive forward new concepts and research to grow our knowledge economy, putting Wales on a global platform.

“As part of the AgorIP project, commercial sector experts will help progress new ideas through experimental and industrial development, demonstrating proof of concept to potential funders and attracting further research investment.

“AgorIP was piloted through the Welsh Government’s Academia for Business project, which was supported by the EU funding programme 2007-13. AgorIP secured £4million of private sector funding to create six spin-outs within a year. This project will build on this first phase, opening up a pipeline of untapped research and turning innovative ideas into products and services for the commercial market.” 

ARCH (A Regional Collaboration for Health) is a unique partnership between Swansea University and ABMU and Hywel Dda university health boards. ARCH covers six local authority areas and benefits 1 million people across South West Wales.

The ARCH partnership brings together health and science to transform the way health is delivered in the region. Unlocking and supporting innovation is one of the aims of the ARCH partnership.

Professor Marc Clement, ARCH board member Swansea University’s Dean of the School of Management, said: “As a university we pride ourselves on our links with industry and this is another example of how sectors can work together. This ARCH project will help unlock innovation in the NHS and will provide a support service to drive this innovation and realise the huge value from Intellectual Property (IP) generated across ARCH region and indeed Wales.”

Dr Ronan added: “AgorIP will open a pipeline of untapped valuable opportunities to work with researchers and NHS staff  to disclose concepts with development potential.

“An example of how this works in practice is our work with Aneurin Bevan University Health Board to develop an app which aims to support the prevention of eating disorders. The Diet or Disorder? app provides tools to support and empower those who might have an eating disorder as well as their loved ones. The app provides a host of information in a portable format and gives education about eating disorders, including decisional tools to help identify an eating problem. It also signposts to the available support in Wales, simple self-help strategies and links to other resources.”

The app, which is free for android, smartphone and tablet users, has been developed with input from the Adult Eating Disorders Service, sufferers, carers and the third sector, with advice from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service Network (CAHMS), public health, education and healthcare professionals. It has been designed and tested by both experts by experience and members of the public who are not familiar with eating disorders, as well as health professionals.

The App, which has been funded by the AgorIP project with money from the Welsh Government, was launched by Vaughan Gething, Cabinet Secretary for Health, at the Senedd last week.

Jacinta Tan, Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Swansea University led the development of the app, she said: “There are currently 1.6 million people in the UK who are directly affected by eating disorders and the healthcare costs to the NHS is between £3.9 and £4.6 billion each year. Eating disorders are serious and have the highest mortality rates of any mental disorder and that’s because only a minority of people receive the help needed from specialist or general mental health services.

“Evidence has shown that eating disorders usually begin in adolescence and young adulthood and early identification and intervention is vital as recovery is less likely if remained untreated for over three years. This app aims to get straight to those who need it most with the benefits derived from such early intervention.”

The AgorIP project will be officially launched at this year’s MediWales Connects conference in Cardiff on June 21. The event brings together NHS Wales, academia and industry to share clinical innovation in practice which improves the care patients receive.

This year’s conference, which is being held in Cardiff’s Mecure Holland House Hotel, will also showcase the work of the ARCH partnership including the development of health and wellbeing schemes across South West Wales as well as how the recently signed Swansea Bay City Region City Deal will accelerate the delivery of many of the ARCH projects.