Let's talk... developing new products and processes

Translate: Medical Technologies is a partnership of universities in Leeds City Region with world-class expertise in developing new medical technologies. Working with academics, clinicians and industry, they can provide the support needed to develop new medical technologies to address unmet clinical and patient needs.

We spoke to Dr Lisa J Hill, Innovation Development Manager at Translate, to hear why she thinks it is so important to connect businesses and academics when developing new products and services.

Why is it important to connect businesses with academic expertise in the medical technologies sector?

The UK’s medical technologies sector is a key growth sector in the UK and globally is set to be worth $530 billion in the next five years. Over 98% of MedTech companies are SMEs, and there is a clear opportunity for businesses in Leeds City Region to tap into this market and capitalise on the innovation potential and scientific excellence that fuel this sector. Companies and academics need to work together though to realise the potential.

What are the biggest market opportunities for businesses in the region to tap into?

For me, the biggest opportunity is in technology convergence and combination technologies. Examples include the convergence of medical devices and information technology; artificial intelligence applied to medical devices; combining medical imaging with robotics to automate surgical procedures; digital health; and smart drug delivery devices.

Leading tech companies Apple, Google, IBM and Samsung are investing heavily in digital health initiatives, especially around wearables, life sciences and smartphones. For example, Google began a collaboration in 2015 with US-based Dexcom to develop a new blood glucose monitor that is housed in a contact lens.

New sectors that have developed out of these combined technologies, have seen significant market growth rates and the global digital health market continues to grow.

Why is Leeds City Region a key player in this sector?

The city region has a proud history of academic excellence and industry strengths in traditional medical devices and materials, orthopaedics and instrument manufacturing. This combined with emerging strengths in biologics and digital, means that the region is uniquely well-placed to respond to the opportunities connected to technology convergence.

Why are companies that collaborate more likely to succeed?

The role of universities as both drivers of innovation and new product development and testing is now increasingly recognised. Collaboration with universities is highly valuable for new-to-the-market products or processes, particularly to smaller companies. Findings from the Enterprise Research Centre suggests that for small firms, collaboration with local universities increases the success of new-to-the-market products or processes by 7%.

How do you help businesses to identify potential new markets and key opportunities for their products?

We connect businesses with an idea for new medical technology products and services with academics who have the expertise to develop them.

Companies interested in working with academics in the Leeds City Region can get in touch with us anytime. We’re especially keen to hear from companies who have a technology challenge or an innovative idea that you would like some academic help with. It doesn’t matter if they don’t know exactly what that help might look like. We’re happy to work with companies to make the best connections with leading academics from the Universities of Bradford, Huddersfield, Leeds, Leeds Beckett and York – working in a diverse range of areas, such as enabling technologies, e-health, imaging and diagnostics, implantable devices, rehabilitation and assistive technology, surgical and medical equipment, and wound care and infection control.

Projects involving Leeds City Region academics can also access dedicated support from one of our Technology Innovation Managers, who can provide help with early-stage de-risking (IP landscaping, market assessment, clinical validation, patient consultation) and the preparation of grant applications.

Our dedicated Technology Innovation Managers have:

Professional experience of the MedTech sector
Knowledge and insight of the requirements and opportunities presented by the market
Confidence to engage successfully with clinicians and researchers from across the disciplines

What tips do you have for businesses who are thinking about product and process innovation?

1. The greatest future growth opportunities are in technology convergence and combination technologies

2.It is crucially important to understand and address unmet clinical needs at the earliest stage of development. A barrier to innovation is often cited by businesses as risk, therefore early stage de-risking of medical technologies underpins commercial success

3.Networking is key to innovation, so make time to connect with potential research or industry collaborators

Why are programmes like Access Innovation important for the region?

Access Innovation programme supports SMEs to develop new products and services and access specialist expertise to achieve this. The programme better connects businesses to the extensive knowledge base we have in the region, including the largest concentration of universities outside of London. This is great for the businesses and the research organisations involved as well as the region’s economy as innovation is key to economic growth.

To find out more about Access Innovation and the support available to grow your business, call the LEP’s Business Growth Team on 0113 348 1818 or email businessgrowth@the-LEP.com.