Solving the challenges which hamper Yorkshire’s medical technology experts when they attempt to bring innovative products to market is the focus of a new partnership, which aims to make inventions more attractive to investors.
The Grow MedTech partnership, backed by almost £10m of funding, will build on the distinctive cluster of medical technologies expertise in the Leeds and Sheffield city regions. It will address issues that can block the process of commercialising products and bringing them from conception to clinical use.
Six northern universities are among more than 20 partners in the three-year project, which is led by the University of Leeds. Other partners include the local enterprise partnerships serving both city regions, National Institute of Health Research organisations, councils and chambers of commerce.
By supporting and financially backing researchers and developers to take new products through the early stages of commercial development, the partnership expects to bring around 20 potentially life-enhancing devices into everyday use during the next three years.
This will include taking the business risk out of early-stage projects and providing proof of commercial concept funding, giving investors and businesses confidence that they have a realistic chance of success. It will also support clinical evaluation to secure regulatory approval, essential for them to be commercialised.
Support throughout the development of devices and products will enable universities to commercialise more medtech intellectual property and work more effectively with businesses and investors. Together they will be better able to progress opportunities which will increase the competitiveness of UK medtech on the global stage.
Dr Josephine Dixon-Hardy, Director of Medical Technologies Innovation at the University of Leeds is leading the delivery of the programme the partnership. She said: “We are bringing the best minds in engineering, biological development, design and manufacturing together with industry to drive products into everyday use to improve the quality of life for people across the world.
“Our region already has an acknowledged reputation as a leader in this field – we plan to consolidate and extend that and provide the underpinning support needed to take new inventions through the important regulatory and testing processes needed to get them to market.”
Previous research has identified that the most significant trend in future health care product innovation is the combination of different technologies. The partnership will pay special attention to supporting this area of growth.
Examples of technological convergence include connecting robotics and medical imaging systems to automate surgical procedures, and digital health and smart drug delivery services.
Professor John Fisher, Director of the EPSRC Medical Technologies Innovation and Knowledge Centre at the University of Leeds, is the project’s academic leader.
He said: “The rate of change associated with technology convergence at the moment is unprecedented, and the UK medtech sector needs to transform to exploit this opportunity.
“We aim to lead this change in the UK, recognising the need for greater collaboration between researchers, industry and the wider healthcare sector, and the growing value of multi-disciplinary knowledge and skills across the med-tech sector. The programme will deliver growth in the economy and benefits to the health and care services”.
The Grow MedTech programme,led by the University of Leeds, in partnership with Sheffield Hallam University, Leeds Beckett University, the University of Bradford, University of Huddersfield and University of York, all of which have significant strengths in medical technologies research and development, is intended to bring together the extensive resources in the two city regions to stimulate a more dynamic medtech cluster. This will help position UK companies to address forecast medtech market growth opportunities of £10-30bn per annum for UK industry in the next five years.
The project is a result of the Medical Technologies Science and Innovation Audit, led by the University of Leeds and published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in September 2017. It also supports the Office of Life Sciences Industry Strategy and the Med-tech Sector Deal, and the Inclusive Industry Strategy for the Leeds City Region.
Grow MedTech will be supported through Nexus, the University of Leeds’ innovation and enterprise centre, which is due to open in September and will be the gateway for business to access academic expertise and facilities across the University.
Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “Britain is famous for its innovations. From the humble toothbrush to hip replacements, the ATM to the World Wide Web – these inventions have had a huge impact on our daily lives. Up and down the UK, some of the brightest and best talent are undertaking research which can deliver extraordinary innovations that will transform our society for the better.
“Through the Industrial Strategy, Grand Challenges and the funding announced today, we are helping turn innovative new ideas into products and services which could help change our lives and keep the UK as a world leader in developing the products of tomorrow.”
(The Connecting Capability Fund was first announced by Government at Autumn Statement 2016, as part of the National Productivity Investment Fund.
David Sweeney, Executive Chair of Research England, said: “In the Industrial Strategy, the Government asked us to improve our ability to turn exciting ideas into commercial products and services. Universities have stepped forward in this project to show that they can do world-class commercialisation, alongside world-class science.”
CEO Medilink North of England, Kevin Kiely said: “Medilink acknowledges the need to significantly enhance connectivity and drive technology convergence, to fast track and de-risk product development and transformation healthcare delivery.
“The Leeds and Sheffield City Regions have a unique Med Tech asset base across its academic, clinical and industrial community, and Medilink North of England, as active partners in the Grow MedTech programme, will leverage its extensive health technology network and its unique relationship with the Med Tech industry to support the programme in achieving significant economic, clinical and social impact.”
Medilink Yorkshire and Humber is the membership based representative body dedicated to the growth of the health sector, and works closely with the Sheffield City Region.