Medtech and life sciences sector in East Midlands standing up to the recession
19 February 2013
Medilink East Midlands, a member organisation for life science and medical technology companies in the region, says that the sector has overcome the business support difficulties posed by significant changes in government policy over the last three years.
Speaking at the Medilink East Midland’s AGM, Chief Executive Darren Clark said that, like the sector as a whole, his organisation has re-focused in response to the cuts in government support and has continued to successfully provide support to the sector.
Clark pointed to the benefits of recent increased integration of the regional Medilink organisations which has allowed members to access a stronger network and a greater breadth of support, while Medilink East Midland’s iNet programme, which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund has continued to provide key support to companies, enabling them to access advice and funding from a range of different sources.
Since its start in 2008 the iNet has helped life sciences companies secure over £7m of investment, supported at least 25 new product or service launches and enabled 29 collaborative research projects. The programme has created or safeguarded around 380 high quality science jobs. It is this sort of progress which has allowed the region’s life sciences industry to flourish and Clark predicts that further developments will allow Medilink to continue to foster the growth of the sector.
He says, “Moving forward we anticipate being increasingly involved in NHS initiatives, especially with the Government’s plans for the NHS to help stimulate our economy. Effective industry linkages will be essential and Medilink expects to play a key role. We have already established collaborations with Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust to help solve some of their commercialisation needs using local companies. This partnership is seen as a pilot for how Medilink might provide vital industry links for the upcoming Academic Health Science Networks.”
Clark is also hopeful that ERDF funding will enable the continuation of the iNet programme until at least 2015, and says, “The programme has a track record of success in supporting this sector that the government has identified as being crucial for the UK’s continued economic strength. Continuity of the iNet programme alongside Medilink’s other activities will allow us to provide a stable ‘ecosystem’ for the region’s life science businesses.”
Against a background of change and global recession, the UK life science industry has continued to show strength and resilience. A recent Government report published in 2012 showed it comprised of over 4,500 companies, employing around 167,500 people and generates a turnover of over £50bn.
Reflecting a global change, employment in the medical technology sector grew by 4% and now employs more people than the Pharmaceutical sector. With the Med Tech sector comprising over 98% small and medium sized companies, the need for the specialist support provided by organisations like Medilink EM is set to continue.
Speaking at the AGM, Karen Holland, CEO of Northamptonshire company XCAM, bears testimony to the effectiveness of the support that Medilink EM provides. Her company designs and manufactures advanced camera systems which produce atomic level images of structures such as viruses and proteins. The cameras were originally produced for applications outside the life sciences sector and Holland acknowledges the importance of the Medilink support in enabling the entry into the life science sector which lies behind company growth of more than 70% for each of the past four years.
She says, “Whilst we began many years ago as a small company selling just a sensor controller, we began to recognise that our expertise, gained through working on varied interesting projects could be applied commercially to bioscience research. We applied for innovation support funding from Medilink East Midlands for one of our other innovative bioscience projects in the field of pharmaceutical testing, and this helped us to look in depth at the market potential in the bioscience sector, allowing us to make an informed decision as to whether to take bioscience development further.”