Supporting Economic Growth

Our commission from the Office for Life Sciences focuses on the creation of a dynamic pipeline of healthcare innovations so that innovative new devices, services, treatments, and medical technologies reach patients faster and to support economic growth in the West of England. Here Alex Leach, Health Innovation West of England’s Deputy Director of Programmes, looks at how we have been working with local innovators to do precisely that over the past year.

Our principle is that wealth is as important as health, and this has been a recurring theme in many recent conversations with senior leaders to inform our new strategy.

The Office of Life Sciences Life Sciences Vision has this strategic goal:

“Make the UK the best place in the world to discover, develop, test, trial, launch and adopt new treatments and technologies, by creating a forward-thinking commercial environment where the NHS can strike flagship deals and where proven, clinically and cost-effective innovations are rapidly adopted and spread across the country to bolster the health of the nation, deliver greater value for the taxpayer and stimulate economic growth.”

With that in mind, I thought I’d look at our approach to driving economic growth and share a few success stories from companies we are working with.

The national Health Innovation Network’s ‘whole system’ approach to matching innovation to locally identified challenges involves connecting and brokering relationships between innovators, industry, researchers and academics, and health and care colleagues. This approach not only provides benefits for patients and the health and care system, but also delivers impressive economic growth across the country.

Since 2018, our national initiatives have benefited more than 2.3 million patients, and our support to innovators has helped contribute more than £1.8 billion to UK PLC, created or safeguarded more than 6,600 jobs, and delivered a return on investment of almost £3 for every pound.

Here at Health Innovation West of England, we focus on economic growth by mobilising the assets within the region’s trusts, integrated care systems and universities to attract and grow business, nurture local innovation, and stimulate regional investment.

In 2022-2023, healthtech innovators (SMEs, as well as individual academic and clinical entrepreneurs) that were supported directly through our pipeline reported receiving over £10.5 million additional finance leveraged through grants and private investment, including £2.5 million awarded to companies by SBRI Healthcare. In addition, over 100 jobs were created or safeguarded.

These investment figures represent a considerable increase to the £5.5 million reported the previous year.

Economic growth can be driven by ideas and products that arise from within the NHS that have commercial potential, and through the development of products and services from companies through access to NHS expertise and markets. To facilitate this process, we have developed and successfully implemented the Innovation Pathway. This provides bespoke support services, through a consistent and measurable process, to NHS organisations and industry.

The Innovation Pathway enables us and our delivery partners to do the following:

  • Identify priorities and act as trusted brokers across sectors to bring together people and organisations.
  • Act as the first port of call for information, for example signposting commercial innovators and matching already proven solutions to challenges faced by local NHS organisations.
  • Share best practices around health and care organisations and deliver expert advice about the adoption of innovation.
  • Identify opportunities for patients to take part in trials and pilots.
  • Work with health and commercial partners to test out solutions.
  • Collaborate as a national network of 15 to identify what is working best locally, and then scale it nationally.

We are excited to see the results of this year’s economic growth survey, which we will send out in March to all the innovators we have worked with in 2023-24. However, we already know of some amazing growth from local innovators with our support, including:

  • Anya Health: Based in Cheltenham, this company founded by a local lived-experience entrepreneur to create an AI-based parenting app has secured £1.5 million of investments and grant funding exceeding £750,000.
  • EarSwitch: This Bristol-based company, established by a local clinical entrepreneur and supported by the University of Bath, is developing a suite of in-ear biometric control and sensor technologies for an ever-increasing range of global applications. They have attracted investment and grant funding of £1.2 million this year alone enabling it to expand.
  • Bath-based Mayden has over 100 NHS organisations using their patient management system, iaptus for mental health service provision. The company continue to expand, employing more staff and focusing on further innovation, research and development to design additional integrated technologies and applications/products in response to system need.
  • We’re working with several local companies who are developing exciting products and services to help deliver a net zero NHS. For example, we supported Bath-based LabCycle in their successful application for SBRI funding to trial their circular economy service for single-use plastic waste in local NHS laboratories. We’re now supporting their applications for further funding to continue developing the service and seek additional trial partners.

The life sciences sector is an important driver in levelling up the health and wealth of the UK. We are excited to work with our health and care colleagues, along with industry, academia, local government and the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) to make our region attractive for local investment and commercial growth. By doing so, we will help to reduce inequalities, create jobs and keep our local innovators local.

We look forward to sharing with you our economic growth impacts for 2023-24 later this year. We are excited to explore new opportunities to continue this success into the future.

Posted on January 31, 2024 by Alex Leach, Deputy Director of Programmes

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