In my recent blog “UK, Nation of Inventions Exploited by Others” I argued that my main concern as an Innovation Director in the MedTech is beyond the priorities outlined in the Life Sciences Industry Strategy papers and is:
- UK is historically not good at getting new Life Sciences technologies to patients
My point was that, while we as a nation revel in the magnificence of our top Universities, we have not learnt from others that innovation requires active and concerted efforts to achieve commercial success. We look to our Ivory Towers to not only break new scientific or technological grounds but also, miraculously, launch them and start treating patients. This shortfall in our thinking is reflected in the different world rankings:
- Academically UK has three Universities in the Top Ten [Times Higher Education]
- For innovation, which measures what technologies get to market amongst other measures, UK has no Universities in the Top Ten and only FIVE in the Top 100 [Reuters]
As a leader of innovation in a UK SME (JRI Orthopaedics) I have been successful at overcoming the issues arising from taking early-stage technologies through to market and the clinic. I am proud to lead on a team that has not only formalised this innovation process but is in the process of launching a Spin-out that brings it to life, Ortheia www.Ortheia.com.
We believe that most of its fundamental principles can be applied to other Life Science Sector start-ups, especially those in the orthopaedic sector in which we do business.
Some of these main principles are:
- Universities are not the best places to pull together a full and viable market offering. For instance, I am approached regularly by academics with a new and improved technology for enhancing the interface between an implant and the host tissues. However good that technology is it cannot be used on its own. No regulatory body will approve a coating, but they will all consider a coated implant. The full market offering is the entire system including implant, packaging, instruments and the Operative Technique (OpTech) to name a few. The coating is only a small part of that offering
- I am a firm believer that this final offering is best pulled together by a commercial entity not an academic. Furthermore it should be an SMEs, because they do more innovation (i.e. actually getting more new treatments to patients than Universities and the Multi-nationals as measured by patents granted).
- There is a culture in the UK of funding University-based research believing that this will lead to new treatments with little extra effort – I have been told “don’t worry about getting investment funding after grants, if it is good they will queue up to take it on.” Clearly this is not the case. The Ortheia model is more like those used in the USA in that it uses consortia to co-develop the appropriate market offering. Using grant funding efficiently and effectively up to the investment rounds before launch and exit
- Ortheia has built a strong network of investors for own on new MedTech, building on the favourable investment environment in the UK at the moment with schemes likes EIS and SEIS.
I am also heartened by the work around industry strategy in the Life Sciences Sector – spurred on, it has to be admitted, by Brexit – however it is encouraging to see the importance the UK Government places on this sector.
A final point I would like to make – the one thing that could really give us in the UK the edge in innovation over all other nations is using the NHS as an early adopter to accelerate uptake and treatment of patients.
If we could get that right we could see the world rankings for innovation sky-rocket.
Prof Edward Draper