City Region cemented as leader in digital health innovation as Bradford hosts �12m programme


A partnership bid led by the University of Bradford and endorsed by the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has won £3.8M from the Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) to establish a University Enterprise Zone in digital health innovation in the city – one of only 4 bids to be selected for funding across the UK.

The application process for submission of bids required the LEP to endorse its preferred bid. Leeds City Region had four strong submissions from across its 8 HEIs; however the LEP Board chose to endorse the Bradford bid due to the level of private sector commitment and the specific focus on telehealth.

The successful bid brings together the University of Bradford, BT, the City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council, and NHS organisations including the three Bradford NHS Trusts - Airedale, Bradford Teaching Hospitals and Bradford District Care Trust - to cement the Leeds City Region as a UK hotbed of digital health innovation. Additional funding of some £8.3M from the partners brings the total funding for the initiative to over £12M.

Roger Marsh, Chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, said: “I’m delighted that the Bradford University Enterprise Zone bid has been successful - it will be a fantastic asset both for Bradford and the wider City Region. The Leeds City Region is already home to numerous businesses innovating in the field of digital healthcare. As home to NHS England and the Department of Health, our region offers many advantages in the health and bioscience sector, and we identified both this and the creative and digital sector as key growth sectors in our Strategic Economic Plan.

“The Enterprise Zone promises to build on our strong foundations in this area, linking university knowledge and expertise together with local SMEs and stimulating growth in the regional knowledge economy through innovation and internationalisation. With benefits worth up to £500m over the next 10 years, I look forward to seeing the potential of this fantastic initiative realised.”

The first phase of the Digital Health Zone will see the creation of two complementary innovation spaces in the centre of Bradford over the next three years.

The Council-owned Design Exchange building in the Little Germany area will be upgraded to create the Digital Exchange, a business incubator to bring small and young companies together in an open innovation environment. Scheduled to open in early 2015, the Digital Exchange will house companies that focus on information and communications technology, with onsite practical support available from BT researchers, university academics and the Council’s business support team.

Nearby, a new £7M Health and Wellbeing Centre will be built on the University of Bradford campus. This will be used both as a community amenity - housing practising health professionals such as doctors, opticians and dispensing pharmacists - and for tenant organisations to test out healthcare delivery innovations. Teams of researchers and students will work with the patients, healthcare professionals and the companies at the Digital Exchange to trial and monitor new devices, services and ways of working to see which are the most effective and affordable.

The University’s Vice-Chancellor, Prof Brian Cantor CBE, welcomed the news. “As a world-leading technology university, Bradford is ideally suited to this initiative. The Digital Health Zone will enable companies developing new healthcare products and services to connect with Bradford’s outstanding capabilities in healthcare systems research, practice-based medicine and information and communications technology.”

Dr Liam Sutton, the University’s Head of Knowledge Transfer, who compiled the bid, said: “We’ll also be looking to open up new trading markets for Digital Health Zone companies through our extensive international links, especially with China. Add in access to BT’s technology, commercial mentoring and market power, and the case for companies in this sector to set up and grow in Leeds City Region will be compelling. We expect Digital Health Zone companies to create more than 2,000 jobs over the next 10 years.”