​From a novel coronavirus immunity test to harnessing the medical benefits of video gaming consoles, innovations across the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre (AMC) have been flourishing. In a further boost to innovators across the AMC, Duke-NUS and SingHealth announced the establishment of the Academic Medicine Innovation Institute (AMII) on 28 June 2021. The new Institute will provide a virtual framework to foster a culture of innovation and facilitate the sharing of best practices at the AMC.

The virtual launch event, which was graced by Guests-of-Honour Professor Thomas Coffman, Dean of Duke-NUS, and Professor Ivy Ng, Group CEO of SingHealth, was attended by guests from across the AMC as well as partners from Singapore’s healthcare ecosystem.

In her opening address, Prof Ng applauded the innovation efforts at AMC. Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected the AMC in unexpected ways over the past one and half years, these efforts have given rise to inventions and innovative ways to tackle the challenges posed by the pandemic.

But innovation is not just for pandemic times. She also highlighted the importance of enabling innovations for better delivery of patient care as healthcare systems address the challenges of the future.

“We are facing demographic shifts, evolving disease trends and increasing healthcare costs in the face of national fiscal constraints. With all these challenges, we need novel ways to enhance the way we deliver care and ensure sustainability,” said Prof Ng.

After launching the new institute on behalf of SingHealth and Duke-NUS, the guests heard from the two Co-Chairs, Ms Lee Chen Ee, Group Director of Organisational Transformation at SingHealth, and Associate Professor Christopher Laing, Senior Associate Dean of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Duke-NUS.

Talking about the strategic direction, Ms Lee said, “The AMII will chart broad strategic directions for our AMC’s health innovation focus areas based on key priority areas. It also plans to regularly facilitate connections amongst the health innovation community within the AMC, synergise the assets and capabilities of the health innovation landscape as well as provide guidance in evaluating health innovations.”

Speaking next, Assoc Prof Laing outlined the five priority areas for AMII:
• eco-system building and strategic partnerships
• co-development and test-bedding
• adoption and scaling
• culture building and developing human capital
• emerging technologies and data

“Each of these priority areas will be driven by working groups who are sharing ideas and making recommendations to advance our innovation goals,” he added. “AMII will support on-the-ground innovation initiatives such as the SingHealth Artificial Intelligence Programme led by Assistant Professor Daniel Ting. AMII will also deploy enabling support resources—the Impact Assessment Unit led by Professor Nicholas Graves and Dr Hong Weiwei will generate and share evidence on the value of innovation projects to our healthcare system.”

After hearing from the different priority area leads via video message, Ms Ler Sock Hoon, Director of ALPS, a joint procurement effort by the three healthcare clusters, talked about how to better meet the procurement and supply chain needs of Singapore's healthcare system. Through an enhanced procurement process, eligible, selected time-sensitive projects can receive dedicated procurement support and advice while keeping in line with governance frameworks and guidelines, she said.

With the nuts and bolts unveiled, it was time to inspire the audience of new and existing innovators through a short video. In the video, the innovators behind six projects from across the AMC shared how their ideas had taken flight and are now transforming medicine and improving lives.

Highlighting the event’s tagline of “Let Today’s Ideas Take Flight for Tomorrow’s Care”, Prof Coffman stressed that “innovation can take many shapes and forms” and “anyone can start on the journey of innovation”.

“Innovation transcends ranks and professions. Indeed, innovation unites our community. When we innovate and work together across our disciplines, we become more than the sum of our parts. This is a secret sauce of the AMC. By working together, we can make greater things happen,” said Prof Coffman.

To help the AMC’s innovators better understand the new institute, a panel comprising Professor Kenneth Kwek, Advisor to the AMII and SingHealth Deputy Group CEO (Organisational Transformation, and Informatics) and the priority area leads answered questions from the audience, moderated by the AMII Co-chairs.

Following a lively Q&A, Duke-NUS Assistant Professor of Clinical Innovation Rena Dharmawan, who was the emcee for the event and who is also consultant surgeon at the National Cancer Centre Singapore, brought the event to a close with a group photo to commemorate the launch.