By: 20 June 2018
£10m plan to take Yorkshire’s medical technologies expertise to the world

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 supporters include the local enterprise partnerships serving both city regions, National Institute of Health Research organisations, councils and chambers of commerce.


Financial backing for technology

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.

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 manufacture 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.”


Future trends

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.”


Better understanding

On a practical level, the partnership’s approach will involve:

  • Working with companies to better understand technology development and innovation needs.
  • Encouraging collaboration between clinicians, patients and the NHS.
  • Identifying challenges and priorities for the sector.
  • Strategically matching researchers and companies to create combined technologies, which are primed for development.

Dr Dixon-Hardy added: “Ultimately, Grow MedTech will result in faster deployment and wider adoption of new technologies to bring about better patient care and safer more effective and more efficient health and care services.”

The Grow MedTech programme 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.