We are pleased to announce Joann Rhodes, Chief Executive at Health Innovation Research Alliance, Northern Ireland will be speaking at our “Meet Our Partners & Board” webinar on 15th February 2022 at 11am-12:00pm GMT.
Please tell us a little about yourself and your role as Chief Executive in HIRANI?
I’m a pharmacologist with a pharmaceutical industry background (MSD, Pfizer, Biotech) who has worked alongside academics and clinicians to provide human rationale for the discovery and development of new treatments for respiratory and neuromuscular diseases. This has given a unique insight into the drivers and challenges of health innovation and the value and speed added by aligning expertise and skills across the whole ecosystem.
My current role as Chief Exec of the Health Innovation Research Alliance Northern Ireland allows me to exercise these muscles for societal benefit, as I lead a not-for-profit alliance of Queen’s and Ulster University, Health institutions, Industry and Invest-Northern Ireland. Our mission is to support collaboration and drive growth and innovation for the health and wealth of the citizens and businesses of Northern Ireland.
What’s a typical work day like for you?
No work day is the same at HIRANI, as we work with stakeholders across the Health and life sciences sector – and have a view point from Research through Commercial development to Policy, so could be meeting with start-ups, Key opinion leaders, policy-makers or investors from multiple geographical regions, all in one morning. We also spend a lot of time translating ideas and strategy to influence decision-making and mentor entrepreneurs to overcome barriers to health innovation.
Describe the current landscape that female founders, in digital health and life science, are operating in, within Northern Ireland?
The pandemic has accelerated digital health and life science demand by at least 10 years, which is great. However, ensuring founders are connected and have the tools and relationships to access the ecosystem and communicate the USP of their innovation is key. That’s why we are delighted to support Female GRIT and help establish routes to help navigate this ecosystem.
How important is promoting female leadership & diversity within HIRANI?
Very important. People need to see it, and connect to female leadership to be it. HIRANI is led by women, and we have noticed that this inspires others to reach out and connect.
What do you feel is one of the biggest challenges female founders are currently facing in digital health and life science?
Founders face many challenges, particular time pressures to progress their innovation. Female founders often face even greater demands on their time, through caring responsibilities, passionate community engagement and grooming pressures. They require a broad support network to cheerlead, support and enable them to make their best contribution and shoulder some of the responsibilities. I would not have functioned in my last 4 leadership roles without this support network.
How important is it for HIRANI to support female founders?
We must better support female founders as they represent the role models and support network of the future which will develop the next generation of health innovation for the benefit of society.
What advice would you give a female founder aiming to raise funding?
Build relationships early and widely as progression of health innovation is a convoluted and expensive process. These early conversations will guide your thinking and expose you to challenge and questions so you can shape the most attractive pitch you can.
Can you tell us a little about some of the health clusters you are working with in the UK, EU and US?
WE are working closely with Health innovation hub Ireland to develop all-island connections and have a shared workstream developing to better define the routes to health procurement and regulation. We are also building connections through the UK to the other health clusters, and Medicines discovery catapult and further afield to develop industry relationship in EU and US. I am also involved with UKRI women in Innovation cross -sectoral programme, which is entering its 4th year in 2022.
What is your thoughts on the Grit International Female Accelerator and why did HIRANI sponsor and become a partner?
An accelerator without borders is a unique concept and the focus on female founders means education can be tailored to their particular needs. I am excited to meet the successful applicants and it is an important vehicle to help me to support others’ journey and personal growth.
As part of our partner masterclass, what topic will HIRANI be delivering?
My colleague at HIRANI, Dr Siobhan McGrath will be sharing her perspective from her prior role in HSC-NI working with UK and EU regulatory agencies, as founding lead for the Office of research Ethics on medical ethics with respect to validation and adoption of digital technologies and use of data in health. I will be supporting from my role on the board to enable broad relationships and visibility for the programme, mainly across UK stakeholders.
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