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This content is taken from the Manchester Metropolitan University, The University of Manchester & MAHSE's online course, Understanding Innovation in the Healthcare Sciences. Join the course to learn more.
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What is Research and Innovation?

As defined by Health Research Authority (HRA), research is “the attempt to derive generalizable new knowledge including studies that aim to generate hypotheses as well as studies that aim to test them”.[1] Innovation, however, is not quite so easy to define. Innovation is the implementation of something new, or significantly improved. It goes beyond research in that the knowledge generated must be put into practice. In the context of healthcare, this knowledge is applied in an attempt to improve clinical outcomes or clinical practice.

Service evaluation and audit can easily be confused with research and innovation. However, there are important distinctions. If we refer back to the HRA definitions, ‘service evaluation’ is “design and conducted solely to define or judge current care” where-as audit is “designed and conducted to produce information to inform delivery of best care”. Research and innovation can impact upon both of these. Many of the techniques utilised are common to all as they involve measurement in one form or another. Service improvement draws upon knowledge of research, service evaluation and audit. Often, service improvement is synonymous with innovation, where one takes new knowledge or techniques and introduces them into routine practice in order to improve service delivery.

Clinically, one definition of innovation is: “An idea, service or product, new to the NHS or applied in a way that is new to the NHS, which significantly improves the quality of health and care wherever it is applied.”[2]

In the context of healthcare science, research and innovation is important as it allows the introduction of the latest technology in order to provide diagnoses which are more timely, accurate and allow for a more personalised approach to diagnosis and treatment.


Can you identify examples of research, service evaluation or audit from your area of practice? Share these with other learners via the comments section and leave a comment if you feel something has been mis-categorised.


  1. Health Research Authority June 2016 “Defining Research’

  2. Improvement & Efficiency Directorate, Innovation and Service Improvement (2011, p9). Innovation, Health and Wealth: Accelerating Adoption and Diffusion in the NHS. Department of Health

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This article is from the free online course:

Understanding Innovation in the Healthcare Sciences

Manchester Metropolitan University

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