Professor Richard Susskind

The future of the professions: how will technology transform the work of human experts?

It is a remarkably exciting – but also very unsettling – time to be alive, according to Professor Richard Susskind, an independent adviser to professional firms and governments, and co-author of the book ‘The Future of the Professions’.

Giving the first presentation of the Symposium, Professor Susskind explored how the professions might approach the future – the mindset it would be helpful to have – and discussed the changes occurring at the forefront of the professions. He also described how he saw technology unfolding and its relevance for the professions, its impact on jobs and on new models for the delivery of professional services.

He explained that, when thinking about the future and how they might innovate, professions tended to think about services they already offered and how to make them better, cheaper or faster. Instead, he suggested, the professions should take a step back to think about what unique, fundamental value they gave to those they served, and how they might deliver that value in new and different ways.

In collaboration with his son, Daniel, an economist at the University of Oxford, he had examined the impact of technology on the professions. Their research across eight different professions had found radical change at the vanguard, with spectacular changes in the way professional services were being delivered.

In broad terms, they saw two futures: in the first, technology would be used to streamline and optimise the delivery of existing services. This would be reassuringly familiar, as the nature of the services would not change. However, in the second future, technology would be used to challenge or replace traditional ways of working. This was the promise – or threat – of artificial intelligence (AI).

the professions should take a step back to think about what unique, fundamental value they gave to those they served, and how they might deliver that value in new and different ways.

In the past, people had turned to professionals when they needed help, guidance or expertise. In return, professions were granted legislative exclusivity to provide their services. However, he suggested that the professions were now ‘creaking’: for many people, they were unaffordable, antiquated and opaque, and the best expertise was unevenly distributed.

Society had changed and the structured approach to the professions needed to be revisited, he said. The question was: could professional services be accessed and distributed in different ways?

People were already accessing services in new ways and machines were already replacing professional skills – for example, machine learning-based systems were outperforming human beings in diagnosing medical conditions in some areas.  More technological developments were resulting in human professionals being replaced, and no profession should believe it was unique or that it would be immune to the influence of technology.

Also, the technologies underpinning many of these developments were growing at an exponential rate, he said, and machines were becoming increasingly capable and pervasive. Human beings were also increasingly connected to one another, opening up different ways of interacting.

Fifty-two years ago, Gordon Moore, the co-founder of Intel, predicted that, approximately every two years, the processing power of computers would double. This was ‘Moore’s law’.

Professor Susskind said that, on first look, this did not seem that remarkable. However, it actually gave rise to an explosive exponential effect, and this was what was being seen with technology, particularly processing power. By 2020, the average desktop computer would process at 10 16/17 calculations per second – about the same processing power as the human brain. If Moore’s law held, then by 2050, the average desktop computer would possess more processing power than all of humanity combined. This was not science fiction, he said, it was the reality of what was happening.

This increasing capability opened up possibilities in data processing (big data), in problem solving, in artificial intelligence and in robotics.

It was a great privilege to be alive at the time of the greatest progress in technology that the world had ever seen.

He believed that the professions had a choice – they could say that it did not apply to them, or they could say that it was phenomenal and embrace it. Those who were convinced that technology would not affect them were usually proved wrong, he said.

He also stressed that there was no finishing line in sight as far as technological developments were concerned. New breakthroughs, new systems and new technologies were being reported on a daily basis.

All these developments were paving the way for advances in AI. The ‘AI fallacy’, he explained, was the mistaken assumption that the only way a machine could perform at the level of human experts was by replicating their expertise or judgement. However, machines were outperforming human beings in a range of different fields by doing what they did best – using their ever-increasing processing power to analyse vast amounts of data with clever algorithms. Machines did not exercise judgement, but they could handle uncertainty; they did not ‘think’, but they could learn.

He believed that the professions had a choice – they could say that it did not apply to them, or they could say that it was phenomenal and embrace it. Those who were convinced that technology would not affect them were usually proved wrong, he said.

So, in an era of increasingly capable, non-thinking machines, what would this mean for jobs? The decision for the professions in the 2020s would be whether they tried to compete, or whether they redefined themselves and helped build the systems that would replace what they did.

He warned that if the professions did not get involved in building such systems themselves, someone else would do it for them.

The 2020s, he suggested, would be the decade of ‘redeployment’ and not ‘unemployment’ of professional skills and talents.

Technological change meant that new models for the delivery of professional services and the distribution of professional expertise would emerge, as would technologies that could greatly improve the lives and wellbeing of people and animals.

He warned that if the professions did not get involved in building such systems themselves, someone else would do it for them.

There was a fantastic window of opportunity for the professions to embrace these developments, he said.

The fundamental mindset was not ‘What will the future look like?’ but ‘What future can we create?’

Professor Dimitrios Spyridonidis MRCVS

Innovation and disruption demystified

Dimitrios Spyridonidis MRCVS, Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship & Innovation at Warwick Business School, sought to demystify innovation and disruption.

He explained that innovation was often still thought about in the same way as it was 20 years ago – as an incremental process. However, developments were now happening so rapidly that, while incremental progress remained important, ways of thinking about innovation had to change.

The term ‘disruptive innovation’ had been coined by Clayton Christensen, an American scholar and business consultant. He had suggested that many companies spent too much time, energy and resources focusing on improving their services incrementally, moving themselves towards the higher end of the market. However, by doing this, they overlooked the needs of the lower end of the market, which allowed a void to develop. This void could then be filled by new entrants using technology in a new, radical way. As a result, the market would be disrupted and, in some cases, the incumbent companies would be unable to react quickly enough.

The perfect innovative company needed to think in terms of both incremental progress and disruptive progress, Professor Spyridonidis said, although maintaining a balance between them could be difficult.

Disruptive innovation was occurring on a daily basis, he said, citing examples such as Uber and Airbnb in the private hire and travel accommodation industries respectively. However, in the early stages of disruptive innovation, the potential for disruption often went unnoticed. Companies therefore needed to pay close attention to what was happening in their marketplaces.

Innovation could involve improving existing products and services offered to existing customers. It could also involve offering new services and products. However, he said, innovation was also about removing elements that did not help a business move forward – the ‘waste’ or slow-growing areas or services. Innovative businesses looked at all areas.

Disruptive innovation was occurring on a daily basis, he said, citing examples such as Uber and Airbnb in the private hire and travel accommodation industries respectively. However, in the early stages of disruptive innovation, the potential for disruption often went unnoticed. Companies therefore needed to pay close attention to what was happening in their marketplaces.

He warned that a company – or profession – that thought only in terms of incremental innovation and overlooked disruptive innovation, ran the risk of others encroaching on and disrupting its area of interest.

Christopher Woolard

Project Innovate: a regulatory strategy to support innovation

Why is innovation important, and why does a regulator need to get involved?

These questions were addressed in a presentation by Chris Woolard, Director of Strategy and Competition at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

He explained that the FCA has a statutory duty to promote competition and that innovation helps bring new products and services to the market.

However, regulatory systems can favour existing companies that know how the system works and new entrants often need help to navigate the complex rules.

In 2014, the FCA created ‘Project Innovate’ to encourage innovative companies of all sizes to bring forward new ideas. As part of the project, the FCA gives an ‘informal steer’ around a company’s business plan, and also helps it understand the regulatory environment it is operating in. If a firm is genuinely innovating in the interests of consumers, but does not fit the established rulebook, the FCA considers how the rules might be amended to allow that company to enter the market.

Mr Woolard explained that, because innovation can be daunting, even for established firms, a ‘regulatory sandbox’ had recently become part of Project Innovate.

The sandbox offers a ‘safe space’, in which companies can be fully authorised and subject to FCA rules and protections for up to six months. They can conduct a trial, with a limited number of participants, to assess whether their product might work in the real world.

In return, companies agree to take part in research with the FCA, helping it to understand how the new technology works. There is also a pre-agreed plan for dealing with the situation if anything goes wrong.

Three cohorts of companies – about 100 firms in total – have been through the sandbox process, he said, and the benefits are clear: new companies are entering the market and the FCA has learned a great deal about the technologies that will dominate the market.

The sandbox offers a ‘safe space’, in which companies can be fully authorised and subject to FCA rules and protections for up to six months. They can conduct a trial, with a limited number of participants, to assess whether their product might work in the real world.

However, it is hard work, he said – innovative companies, by definition, come with the most risk. There is also a reputational risk for the FCA as the regulator in engaging with innovation. But, if it does not engage, it runs the risk that emerging technologies might remain outside the regulatory environment, or of not understanding how these new technologies work.

In conclusion, he said that, if a regulator is interested in innovation, it has to commit to it.

Dr Umang Patel

Telemedicine and clinical standards: a case study in human healthcare

Babylon Health has a mission to put an accessible and affordable health service in the hands of every person on earth, the company’s Clinical Director Dr Umang Patel told delegates.

Babylon Health offers an online and app-based telemedicine healthcare system built on artificial intelligence. It was founded in January 2013 and developed its first app in April 2014. It now has more than 800,000 global users and operates in the UK, Ireland and Rwanda.

Describing Rwanda as ‘the odd one out’ of the three, Dr Patel explained that there are only 1,000 doctors in the country to serve a population of 11 million people – however, there are 18 million SIM cards. So, when developing a healthcare system from scratch in Rwanda, it makes sense to look alternative ways of delivering services.

Babylon Health started work in Rwanda in April 2017 and believes it will have one million users there by the end of this year.

Dr Patel demonstrated how users of the app can access help with any health concern they might have. The aim, he said, is to get an individual to the right outcome in a short space of time. Artificial intelligence is ‘front and centre’ of the system, which is informed by vast amounts of data; users also have their own individual profiles containing relevant information. Initially, the system asks the user what it can help them with before asking further questions based on the answers given and on the user’s individual profile. It cross-references the responses against its source data and the individual’s profile to reach a provisional diagnosis, before offering advice on possible next steps, such as what the individual might do themselves to deal with a problem, or whether they should speak to a doctor.

Dr Patel demonstrated how users of the app can access help with any health concern they might have. The aim, he said, is to get an individual to the right outcome in a short space of time.

It also measures outcomes, so if its suggested approach is not successful, it builds on its previous experience to progress the case.

The aim is to provide an individualised service, he said, rather than a standardised approach such as that used by the NHS 111 system.

The system can deal with prescriptions and remind people to take their medication.  It can offer preventive healthcare advice based on an individual’s profile.

It also offers video consultations with doctors. The consultations are recorded so that they can be viewed again if either party needs reminding of what was said.

Dr Patel said that, overall, the system helps people engage with, and understand, their own healthcare.

Dr Adam Little

Veterinary innovation in North America – challenges and opportunities

Adam Little, Director of Veterinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Texas A&M University, remarked that the coming decade will bring more change to the veterinary arena than has been seen over the past 50 years combined. An overwhelming amount of change is already happening he said, and he believed that, ultimately, change will be for the better.

He discussed four factors that will influence the veterinary field in the next 10 years.

  • People’s evolving relationship with pets
  • Empowered consumers
  • Innovation on the fringes
  • The profession’s response

Considering each in turn, he said that, nowadays, people were increasingly ‘humanising’ their animals and have closer relationships with their pets than ever before. They are prepared to spend more money on their pets. This in turn changes their expectations of the services available for their pets and the way they build relationships with the people providing such services. They need support, and businesses are springing up to meet this need.

the coming decade will bring more change to the veterinary arena than has been seen over the past 50 years combined. An overwhelming amount of change is already happening he said, and he believed that, ultimately, change will be for the better.

He described various new technologies – including trackers and remote monitoring systems – that are changing the relationship between people and pets.

Turning to the empowerment of consumers, he discussed the importance of engaging with the digital world. Technology will unlock new models of service delivery; for example, voice-activated artificial intelligence-based systems, such as Siri and Alexa, are now at a point where they are becoming really useful, he said.

As a result, people are becoming used to seeking help from these systems. So if a speaker in the home becomes the first point of advice for owners when they have health concerns about their pet, or need products or services, how will vets persuade them to come into a clinic?

Augmented reality is also developing rapidly and being used for a number of healthcare applications.

Customers will expect more robust, connected experiences, with their digital experiences shaping their ‘real life’ ones.

Innovation on the fringes occurs when new technologies develop to meet existing as well as perceived needs – examples include PayPal, Uber, Airbnb and Tesla. Each has fundamentally changed the field in which it operates and each caused significant disruption to its respective market.

Large companies can find it hard to adapt to innovative developments because their business models cannot be changed quickly, he said. As a result, many are now building innovation into their business models, looking at new ways of meeting consumers’ needs.

Machine learning technology is already being used to support decision making by doctors. Similar systems must be developed for the veterinary profession too, he suggested, to ensure that all vets have access to the support they need.

So how might the profession make the transition to the future? Current veterinary models of care are not built for the technology-rich future, he warned, and clinics might struggle to adapt. New service delivery models are already emerging, including virtual veterinary services, on-demand models and mobile veterinary services, but these are bringing issues around regulation, something that regulators and veterinary organisations around the world are struggling with.

So, the profession has to understand the forces that are constraining it, but also the opportunities that are being presented. It must be aware of the rapidity of change and of the products and solutions that may upgrade existing practices and unlock new models of care. It must also ensure that training is available to help vets engage in areas of rapid growth.

New service delivery models are already emerging, including virtual veterinary services, on-demand models and mobile veterinary services, but these are bringing issues around regulation, something that regulators and veterinary organisations around the world are struggling with.

It is not a matter of trying to hold back progress but of trying to figure out how to manage it, he said.

Dr Guen Bradbury MRCVS and Dr Greg Dickens MRCVS

Innovation steps: breaking down the gap between ‘here’ and ‘there’

Guen Bradbury and Greg Dickens described their company, innovation consultancy Innovia Technology, before discussing the steps of innovation and how the profession might move towards the future.

Vets’ understanding of first principles, their skills and knowledge across a range of species and situations, and their problem-solving abilities make them natural innovators, they said.

They narrated three scenarios to illustrate how future vets might incorporate different technologies into their working lives. All of the technologies they described are either already on the market, or a component of the technology is already available.

Focusing on small animal practice, Dr Bradbury described how a future small animal practitioner might use their practice management software system to assess information brought together from a range of different sources and provide a specific, individualised care package for a young puppy.

Examining the potential of telemedicine, she described a remote consultation, conducted by telephone and video, for a dog that had gone lame after chasing a squirrel. She explained how the consultation might be informed by data gathered from the dog’s activity tracker and from gait tracking software.

Surgical procedures could also be aided by technology, she said, describing how a cat’s genomic data gathered when it was a kitten could be used before surgery to help inform its risk of interaction with anaesthetic agents, its risk of coagulation problems and the use of premedication before anaesthesia.

During surgery, strain gauges on needle holders could help the surgeon ensure that the ligatures were tight enough, and warn when they might pull through the tissue.

Post-surgery, technologies such as infra-red and motion capture cameras could be used to alert the surgeon to any problems that might arise during an animal’s recovery. Noise-cancelling technology in recovery kennels could help ensure a less stressful experience for an animal.

Turning to farm animal practice, Dr Dickens described a possible future farm visit. He suggested that the vet of the future might arrive in a self-driving car, meaning he or she would have time to review the farm’s notes on the way and to use trend-tracking software to examine potential problems arising on the farm. They would arrive with a list of potential differential diagnoses already in mind.

He described how, once on the farm, a vet might use augmented reality glasses to view cows with mastitis, record notes from their conversation with the farmer and employ thermographic imaging to see the inflamed quarters. They could also see, projected above each animal, information such as its number, a shortened history and details of any previous veterinary intervention. This could help inform the differential diagnoses. The thermographic imaging could help spot mastitic cows that the farmer was unaware of, meaning that the milking robot could be told to automatically discard the milk from those animals.

Drones were another technology with potential in the farm animal veterinary sector, he said. For example, they could be used to examine areas that would be otherwise inaccessible, such as the roofs and gutters of sheds, or the tops of bedding stores when looking for the root cause of an animal health problem. They could also be used for delivering veterinary medicines directly to the farm.

Data from a sentinel network of practices across the country might be used to highlight emerging disease trends, again helping to inform potential differential diagnoses. A subscription-based payment model for veterinary services would encourage farmers to seek veterinary advice earlier because there would be no extra cost involved in doing so.

Dr Bradbury considered how technology might help out-of-hours practitioners. Considering a late-night call from a worried owner whose cat had been vomiting, she described how, by gathering remote data from the cat’s smart litter tray, the vet could see that the cat had visited the litter tray four times in the previous hour, but had not urinated. They could also see that the cat had gained an appreciable amount of weight since the morning. This would be an emergency case, she said, and the owner would be advised to bring the cat to the practice immediately.

Suggesting that innovation in the veterinary profession could drive three benefits – better animal health and welfare; enhanced owner access to and demand for veterinary services; and improved quality of life for vets – they said that moving towards this future will require innovation in technology, process and regulation.

They believed that vets are able to innovate in all three areas.

Innovation in technology and process are interdependent – it is all very well inventing new technology, but imagination and developing means to take it forward are needed. Likewise, new processes cannot be invented if the technology is not available to support them.

Innovation follows a number of steps, they said, which mirror the steps of the veterinary consultation. First, a need has to be identified (a vet sees an animal with a problem) before investigations are carried out to learn more about that need. A list of possibilities is constructed and evaluated before some of the possibilities are discarded, leaving a range of potential ways to meet the need. The success of the chosen solution is then re-evaluated after a certain time has passed.

Innovation in technology and process are interdependent – it is all very well inventing new technology, but imagination and developing means to take it forward are needed. Likewise, new processes cannot be invented if the technology is not available to support them.

They emphasised that vets need to be at the forefront of veterinary technology and they need to start thinking now about how new technologies could be slotted into practice.

Panel debate 1

Panel debate 1 – Here and now: telemedicine, wearables and big data

In the first of two debates at the Symposium, delegates had the opportunity to put questions to a panel of innovators in the field of animal health technology. The session began with each panellist briefly describing their particular approach to innovation.

Dr James Andrews

James Andrews, a vet, entrepreneur and co-founder of Felcana, described Felcana as an animal health data company that used powerful analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence to get a better understanding of what an animal was doing 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The company believed that all animals would be connected to the internet by 2025 and was due to launch its first product shortly. Two more products were due to launch in 2018.

James Andrews, a vet, entrepreneur and co-founder of Felcana, described Felcana as an animal health data company that used powerful analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence to get a better understanding of what an animal was doing

Felcana was working with animal health companies, pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, food companies and veterinary practices to develop new solutions to the problems that they faced. Dr Andrews said that rather than standing on the sidelines and watching other people innovate around them, vets had to start innovating themselves.

Dr Nuala Summerfield

Nuala Summerfield, veterinary cardiologist and founder of Virtual Veterinary Specialists, noted that in the UK, there were approximately 24,000 practising vets, but that fewer than 4% were RCVS-recognised Specialists. This meant that access to the best veterinary expertise could be limited. Virtual Veterinary Specialists aimed to use technology to address this problem, allowing virtual, real-time collaboration between GP vets and specialists, making interactions with specialists easy and part of everyday practice life, regardless of geographical constraints. The system used an integrated software and hardware platform that was secure, user-friendly and transportable. All the platform required was an internet connection. It allowed video-based collaboration and real-time data feeds so that a specialist could see an animal remotely and assess the data being gathered. The GP vet could perform all the diagnostic investigations needed under the real-time guidance of the specialist.

Virtual Veterinary Specialists aimed to use technology to address this problem, allowing virtual, real-time collaboration between GP vets and specialists, making interactions with specialists easy and part of everyday practice life

A large proof-of-concept trial of the system had recently been completed successfully and plans for rolling it out more widely were being made. The aim was to develop a virtual, multidisciplinary service that could be accessed on demand.

Francesco Cardoletti

Another form of telemedicine was described by Francesco Cardoletti of Pawsquad. In this case the aim was to offer clients a more convenient form of primary care, through both online video consultation and home visits. The online video consultations offered clients easy access to veterinary expertise, reducing the impulse to search for information elsewhere, while the home visit service offered both convenience for the client and a less stressful experience for the pet.

Pawsquad had discovered that about 40 per cent of the clients who had used its service for their pets had not been to a vet in two or more years.

The online video consultations offered clients easy access to veterinary expertise, reducing the impulse to search for information elsewhere, while the home visit service offered both convenience for the client and a less stressful experience for the pet.

Vets using the Pawsquad model were not employed by the company. Instead, the company provided vets with a ‘practice in a box’ – basically all the tools needed for them to build their own practice. Vets made the initial investment and could then manage their own schedules, leading to a better work-life balance.

From the company’s point of view, this approach meant it could easily scale up its operations without having to greatly increase its staff levels. It could also gather lots of data on the animals that were being seen, using this to inform preventive healthcare strategies.

Professor Ivan Andonovic

The final member of the panel, Professor Ivan Andonovic of the University of Strathclyde, described the development of the Silent Herdsman system, which enables cattle keepers to monitor their animals. The system, which uses technology built into a ‘smart collar’, sends data to a PC and can tell a keeper when a cow needs inseminating and can also raise alerts if an animal is unwell.

Professor Andonovic said that the system had been developed to help solve fertility problems in the dairy industry. He stressed that it was not intended to replace human input, rather it was a decision support tool. Its development had benefitted from the input of a range of expertise, including that of vets and herdsmen.

The system, which uses technology built into a ‘smart collar’, sends data to a PC and can tell a keeper when a cow needs inseminating and can also raise alerts if an animal is unwell.

He commented that, as technology in general decreased in cost and became increasingly energy efficient, it would offer cost-effective solutions in many areas; however, it was vital that it was adopted by the users it was aimed at.

Delegates asked a range of questions following these introductions. These included how the panellists had made the step from good idea to actual product or service, how they derived value from the product or service that they offered and how their early experiences with customers had shaped product development.

The panellists were also asked how their product contributed to veterinary knowledge and whether the professional regulatory environment helped, hindered or had no impact on their innovation.

Panel debate 2

Panel debate 2 – Coming to a vet near you soon

The second panel debate of the Symposium considered technologies that are currently in the pipeline. The three members of this panel were also asked to briefly introduce themselves and the technology they were developing.

Iain MacLaren-Lee

Iain MacLaren-Lee of Oxford Nanopore Technologies showed delegates the pocket-sized genome sequencer developed by the company and explained how it worked. Its size, he said, meant it could go anywhere, and be used to analyse samples taken from people and animals in a range of situations. For example, it had already been used to help track the Zika and Ebola virus outbreaks and it had been tested on the International Space Station.

Attention was now focused on making the device even smaller, so that rather than attaching the sequencer to a PC to collect the data, it could be attached to a mobile phone. In parallel, work was ongoing to miniaturise the technology for extracting and processing DNA to produce the sample for the sequencer.

Iain MacLaren-Lee of Oxford Nanopore Technologies showed delegates the pocket-sized genome sequencer developed by the company and explained how it worked. Its size, he said, meant it could go anywhere, and be used to analyse samples taken from people and animals in a range of situations.

Ultimately, he said, it would be possible to carry all the technology needed to sequence an organism’s genome in a pocket. It would be possible for a farmer to record the entire genome of a calf on a smartphone  simply by using a small piece of tissue collected when the calf’s ear tags were applied.

Dr Payam Barnaghi

Payam Barnaghi, Reader in Machine Intelligence at the University of Surrey, highlighted the potential of 5G technology. He explained that, previously, there had been a great deal of emphasis on the speed of communication and also on making communication possible at any time and in any place. However, with the growth of the ‘internet of things’ – whereby sensors are placed on devices to allow them to be connected to the internet – increasing amounts of data were also being collected and processed and networks were reaching the stage where the speed of data processing was also becoming important.

Payam Barnaghi, Reader in Machine Intelligence at the University of Surrey, highlighted the potential of 5G technology. He explained that, previously, there had been a great deal of emphasis on the speed of communication and also on making communication possible at any time and in any place.

5G was partly about improving the speed and reach of communication, he said, but it was also looking at making better use of the capacity of networks and differentiating between the types of traffic, to accommodate the increasing use of internet-enabled devices.

He gave an example of a project evaluating the use of network-enabled sensors to monitor people with dementia. Data collected from a range of sensors could be used to teach a machine what was ‘normal’ for an individual. The machine could then monitor data coming in from the remote sensors and raise an alert if there was any deviation from that norm.

Dr Adam Little

The third panellist was Adam Little, Director of Veterinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Texas A&M University, who had spoken earlier during the Symposium. He commented that many people and companies shared the concept of a ‘connected vision’, using data to inform products and services. How it all came together and who would win and who would lose would be interesting, he said. Entrepreneurs who might be able to see how to use the data that could be collected by a new technology, had to figure out how to get people to use the technology in the first place. He believed that vets underestimated how good some new technologies could be for them and how they could help them use their skills in ways that they could not currently imagine.

During the question and answers session, delegates were interested in the problem of ‘data overload’ . One delegate asked how, in a 10-minute consultation, a vet could be expected evaluate all the data that could potentially be made available. In response, Dr Barnaghi commented that if a technology actually increased workload, then it was not solving a problem in the right way. It was essential that technology solved a problem in a way that was useful.

He believed that vets underestimated how good some new technologies could be for them and how they could help them use their skills in ways that they could not currently imagine.

Dr Little added that the veterinary business model and the vetting process would have to evolve to accommodate the availability of data.

Other questions asked for the panellists’ views on the challenges of integrating big data and using it in a way that benefitted the end user, who should own the data being generated, and whether a RCVS could take action against vets who did not keep up with technology and big data developments.

Anthony Roberts

The RCVS and innovation: what next?

Anthony Roberts, Director of Leadership and Innovation at the RCVS, explained why the College is engaging with innovation.

He aimed to convince delegates that the regulatory aspects of innovation could be as exciting and engaging as the technology and process aspects.

Explaining that the College’s focus on innovation had begun with the joint RCVS/BVA Vet Futures initiative, he reminded delegates that one of the findings from that project had been that the profession had to be proactive in the area of innovation or it risked missing out, resulting in vets being sidelined.

One of the ambitions to emerge from Vet Futures concerned promoting innovation and demonstrating that the profession welcomes it and is open to it.

Reflecting this, the RCVS’s latest strategic plan stresses the need to put leadership and innovation at the heart of the College and to support it creatively and with determination.

Mr Roberts said that, at this time of unprecedented change, new technologies are developing exponentially, new business models are emerging and there is huge investment into the animal health sector. The RCVS has to be involved in this or the veterinary professions might face disruption.

The RCVS also has to ensure that it has an appropriate system of regulation that will be adaptable to this fast-moving, volatile and uncertain market.

Innovation is an irresistible force, he said, and it is incumbent on the veterinary profession to start understanding new technologies and how they might disrupt existing veterinary business models.

While there seems to be huge interest in innovation among vets, Mr Roberts said it appears that they do not necessarily understand how they can engage and be involved with it, and how they might embed new technologies in their practices.

Mr Roberts said that, at this time of unprecedented change, new technologies are developing exponentially, new business models are emerging and there is huge investment into the animal health sector. The RCVS has to be involved in this or the veterinary professions might face disruption.

The RCVS also has to ensure that it has an appropriate system of regulation that will be adaptable to this fast-moving, volatile and uncertain market.

As the regulator, the RCVS believes that veterinary professionals should be at the heart of innovation in the animal health sector. It has to understand how the market is evolving and ensure that its regulatory regime is appropriate and adaptable, and not only fosters innovation but also gives the highest standards of protection to animal health and welfare.

Mr Roberts announced the launch of ViVet, a new initiative to promote innovation in the animal health sector. Delegates were shown a short animated video describing the initiative.

Concluding, Mr Roberts said the RCVS will be seeking to provide regulatory help and guidance to anyone who wants to be involved in the veterinary/animal health market.