£10m plan to take Yorkshire’s medical technologies expertise to the world

Sheffield Hallam University is part of a new partnership which aims to make Yorkshire’s medical inventions more attractive to inventors.

The Grow MedTech partnership, backed by almost £10m of funding, will build on the distinctive cluster of medical technologies expertise in the Sheffield and Leeds city regions. It will address issues that can block the process of commercialising products and bringing them from conception to clinical use.

Hallam is one of six northern universities 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, the 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.

Alex Prince, head of knowledge transfer at Sheffield Hallam University, said: “This partnership is bringing together the best of the region’s engineering, design, manufacturing and biological teams and departments to help bring life-changing medical technology to those who truly need it.

“Our region is a leader in this field – and this partnership project further emphasises our reputation and ambition.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 transform 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 Med-Tech 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.”

Grow MedTech is closely aligned with the recently published UK Government’s Life Sciences Industrial Strategy, which highlights the role of medical technologies as a driving force for the UK economy.

It is part-funded by Research England, which has contributed just under £5million through the Connecting Capabilities Fund. The remainder of the funding is provided by the partner organisations.

Grow MedTech is 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.

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.”

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.