Edinburgh's £68m 'world-leading' health and social care research centre approved

The proposed Usher Institute building, to open in 2023.The proposed Usher Institute building, to open in 2023.
The proposed Usher Institute building, to open in 2023.
A data-focused research institute is set to open in the Capital after securing £49m of funding through the Edinburgh and Region City Deal - focusing on "prevention, diagnosis and management" of medical conditions.

Edinburgh University's Usher Institute, is set to open in February 2023 at the Bioquater next to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh - with a price tag of £68m.

The Edinburgh and Region City Deal Joint Committee approved the final business case for the project - with leaders insisting that data innovation can tackle health and social care problems including delayed discharge and medical conditions.

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Colan Mehaffey, chief operating officer for the health and social care sector of the Data Driven Innovation (DDI) programme at the Usher Institute, said: "Through the Usher Institute, over the lifetime of the programme, we will engage and train over 20,000 students and health and social care professionals in the application of data.

"We will undertake health and social care research projects worth £138m. We will engage with 280 public, private and third sector organisations, we will develop a comprehensive health and social care data resource that will curate and make accessible around 270 new health and social care data assets. We will establish 49 new DDI health and social care companies in the Edinburgh and south east Scotland region."

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Vision to make Edinburgh the ‘data capital of Europe’

Project bosses say the Usher Institute could lead the way for the future of health and social care across the country - with the strategy thought to be able to "reduce costs while improving public health".

Professor Aziz Sheikh, director of the Usher Institute at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Our vision is to create a world-leading innovation hub where public, private and third sectors collaborate to enable data-driven advances in the delivery of health and social care.

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"Through these collaborations, the Usher Institute will support a data-driven approach to the prevention, diagnosis and management of conditions, help improve health and social care provision in the city region and enable the development of a world-leading learning system for health and social care that can potentially be scaled across Scotland and the UK.”

Professor Nick Mills added: "We don't communicate as effectively across primary care, local authorities and hospital care and therefore delayed discharge in hospitals continue to be increasing. I think data maybe a way to really tackle this."

Professor Mills showed committee members evidence that data has made improvements in heart disease treatments - with premature deaths halving in the last 20 years largely through "data-driven policy initiatives".

The city deal programme vision is to "establish the region as the data capital of Europe". Officials say that partners involved in the university-led Usher Institute will be able to "collaborate and access data in a trusted, secure environment, to enable data-driven advances in the delivery of care and create innovative commercial solutions".

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Depute leader of the city council, Cllr Cammy Day, welcomed the approval.

He said: "Over £750m is allocated as part of the City Deal and the Usher Institute is going to be one of the first projects we see in the city - bringing together hundreds of academics and researchers to find solutions to long-term conditions.

"This is something the city should be celebrating and I look forward to learning more about it."

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: “It is fantastic news that the business case for the Usher Institute has been agreed. This new centre, backed by £48.5 million funding from the UK Government, will harness the power of data in a secure and ethical way and deliver major benefits for patients and healthcare services in the UK and internationally.

“I want to see Edinburgh and South East Scotland become a global centre for data science and innovation. The UK Government is investing £300 million in the city region deal to make this a reality.”