“Digital governance is not just about obeying a law it is about developing an ethical approach. A strong digital governance approach is an ethical approach. Think of data not as being data but belonging to a person. Develop your product as if that data belonged to a loved one what would they think of your approach?” Q&A Siobhan McGrath, Chief Operations Manager, HIRANI

We are pleased to announce Siobhan McGrath, Chief Operations Manager, HIRANI will be speaking at our “Meet Our Industry Partners” webinar on 10th February 2022 at 11am-12:00pm GMT.

Please tell us a little about yourself and your role as Chief Operations Manager with HIRANI?

I Joined HIRANI from a Biochemistry/immunology and regulatory background drawn from across academia and the medical devices /IVD industry. I established the Northern Ireland Office for Research Ethics in the HSC. In this role I advised across the sector working with industry, NHS, and academic researchers on ethical review as part of their product validation. This also involved collaboration with the UK Health Research Authority (HRA), the MHRA and the Health Tissue Authority. I also was the ethics advisor on two Horizon Europe EU consortia one involving digital health. Since Joining HIRANI in July 2021 I have been Company Secretary, managed the HIRANI Board, and improved governance processes. Recently I have taken the lead on a NI Regulatory Strategy Project and spearheaded a project involving bringing the NHS Clinical Entrepreneurship Programme to Northern Ireland for the first time.

What’s a typical workday like for you?

As HIRANI is an alliance organisation connectivity is everything. I make connections with stakeholders from across the health and life sciences sector from funders, founders to doctors and nurses who are end users of innovation. Today for example I helped connect people together for an important event, represented the NI Health & Life Science Sector at a Regulatory Policy meeting and connected sector leads to experts in UK. I also finalised a blog. I do also have to make sure that our finances are healthy, our books balance and our bills are paid. There really isn’t a typical day. More recently I have been particularly involved in highlighting regulatory issues that impact on the Northern Ireland Health and life Sciences Sector and addressing other areas that may block or enhance innovation.

Can you talk to us a little bit more about your role on the Office for Research Ethics Committee Northern Ireland?

As Head of the Office for Research Ethics Committees Northern Ireland, I established and transformed this Regulatory Service into a nationally and internationally recognised service for health & life sciences. I worked closely with research funders and regulators in the UK to produce codes of practice and guidance for researchers. I trained Research ethics committees in ethical review of projects from drug & device clinical trials to ethical review of data in research & innovation.

How important is ethical issues and ethical concerns to a potential investor?

Remember the end game in this business is not about producing a nice car but producing something that impacts on a patient’s life. Ethics should be a cornerstone of product development, that is where the passion should come from to make a difference, to do no harm. Beneficence not maleficence.

Why should female founders pay close attention to developing a strong digital governance policy?

Digital governance Is not just about obeying a law it is about developing an ethical approach. A strong digital governance approach is an ethical approach. Think of data not as being data but belonging to a person. Develop your product as if that data belonged to a loved one what would they think of your approach?

Run your policy by a Patient group. Co-design with patients.

What can a start-up do to ensure they access data and reuse data within the correct legal requirements?

If you use your data in the ethically correct way, it will be legally compliant. Ethics knowledge and training would help.

What are your thoughts on current regulation around ethics for digital and AI?

Regulation is nothing to be afraid of it comes from a good space. If you develop your product ethically then complying with regulation will be much easier. It demonstrates a systematic approach to your product development and gives it a quality stamp.

What advice would you give a female founder aiming to raise funding?

Be yourself, be passionate, be knowledgeable. Articulate your project in the right language, communication is everything do not blind with science. Speak to the investor as if you are a patient who will be using your product. How will it benefit that patient? What is your USP? How does that fit with market needs? Show that your idea has been peer reviewed, and that you have had some end user engagement. Have roadmap in your head, demonstrate thought & planning.

What are your thoughts on the Grit International Female Accelerator programme?

Women need encouragement, they need more connection to other women. We often are the people who must keep all the balls in the air, a career, a family, caring for elderly parents. I can certainly speak from personal experience as a single parent.  All of this makes us unique as leaders, but it can be isolating. I truly believe women have GRIT and must overcome a lot in their lives, but this makes us wiser, more patient and very tenacious.

As an industry expert what topic will you be delivering? 

The ethics of using data in innovation.

Any final thoughts?

I was told by male line managers that I was too kind to climb the ladder. I proved them wrong. My leadership style is all about inspiring and encouraging others, pick battles only when they are worth picking and focus on the endgame. People respond better and give much more to a compassionate leader. Set your behaviour standards for the team and be honest with people.

Build in ‘me’ time. My two favourite words are ‘kindness’ and ‘knowledge’.

Social media details:

Linkedin Page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/health-innovation-research-alliance-northern-ireland-hirani

website: www.hira-ni.com

Twitter: @4HealthAlliance

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