Chris Tufnell MRCVS

Welcome and Introduction

After a successful inaugural event at The Shard in London in 2017, the second ViVet Innovation Symposium moved north, taking place at The Lowry in Manchester on 1 October. More than 100 delegates were welcomed by Dr Chris Tufnell, RCVS Council Innovation Lead, who explained that ViVet had been set up in response to concerns from the veterinary professions that technological innovation would happen “despite us, rather than because of us” and they could be left behind.

At the inaugural symposium in 2017 some “crystal ball gazing” had taken place, looking at ways the professions might change, and giving insights into innovations in the pipeline. Now “we’re moving the conversation on”, said Dr Tufnell, and the 2019 symposium examined how client behaviour is changing as a result of technological innovation, and how veterinary professionals will have to interact with both technology and clients to get optimal outcomes for animals. The symposium also considered how the roles of veterinary professionals themselves might change.

To this end, the speakers at the 2019 symposium covered a wide range of subjects, from surviving in the “new normal” of the digital age, through to how regulators are managing innovation in a proactive manner. They examined the potential of artificial intelligence, as well as how precision medicine, tailored to individual animals, might affect the services offered by veterinary professionals.

A debate considered whether the veterinary professions needed to become more customer-centric in order to thrive, while students had the chance to pitch their innovative ideas to a panel of industry professionals in “What’s Your Big Idea?”, a “Dragon’s Den” style competition.

Three key themes emerged from the day. First, consumer demand for veterinary services is changing, and the professions need to work out how they will meet these demands in a sustainable manner. Second, there will be increasing reliance on technology, and veterinary professionals will have to seamlessly combine the use of technology with their other skills to ensure that individual animals receive the most appropriate care for them. Finally, regulators will have to balance the need for innovation against the risk posed by novel technologies.

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