CLUSTER NEWS – APRIL 2022
And so it begins – our second year in business!
It has been so satisfying to have made such a strong start in our first year. We are seeing a growing interest in membership from the region’s health tech businesses, we have strategic partners who want to work with us and we are finding that there is an interest in sponsoring some of our activities. We have a clear ethical framework for deciding whether to accept sponsorship.
We currently have two service contracts which are due to expire during this second year. We are in talks to renew and develop these service contracts in direction which fit with our strategic mission. Objectives which we want service contracts to further include: mapping our health tech ecosystem, developing a concierge service and growing our region’s diagnostics identify.
In this our second year of operation, we will continue to run our very successful Topical Tuesdays (on the first Tuesday of every month) and we already have a busy forward schedule of webinars, masterclasses and campaigns planned.
We are feeling very much that we have a following wind – from the Commonwealth Games this summer to the Government’s announcements about Levelling Up and Shared Prosperity via the ambitious agenda of the Combined Authority and the region’s local authorities, we feel part of a what is increasingly a more coherent, focussed effort to support businesses in health tech to start up, spin out, grow, relocate or move into our region from outside.
So please stick with us and hopefully share our joy as we see more and more evidence of benefits of this approach for businesses and communities in the West Midlands. We can only succeed through collaboration and partnership working across a wide range of interactions.
April’s Topical Tuesday featured representatives of the academy of Medical Sciences who were really informative about the Academy’s activities and their views on the benefits of clusters and the Government’s levelling up ambition. The Academy wants to have more connections with businesses in the West Midlands and we feel that we can work with them in a number of ways to help bring about greater interaction.
In May we are delighted to be joined by West Midlands 5G. West Midlands 5G (WM5G) was established through The Department for Culture, Media & Sports (DCMS) Urban Connected Communities Project to accelerate the benefits of 5G throughout the West Midlands when West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) won the bid to become the UK’s first large scale 5G testbed.
WM5G manages a number of projects to speed up the launch of 5G networks and test, prove and scale up new 5G products and services – for local people, public services and businesses. WM5G works in partnership with public and private sector organisations to deliver these projects.
WM5G is all about delivering real benefits for people and businesses and strengthen the West Midlands’ position as the hub of the UK’s 5G ecosystem.
Register Now to attend this event, Click here
- Introduction to WM5G and our Areas – Ben Turner
- How WM5G has worked to drive innovation within Healthcare – Adrian Smith
- Our Healthcare Projects – Adrian Smith
- Whats next for Healthcare in WM5G – Adiran Smith
- Q&A / Roundtable – Adrian Smith & Ben Turner
In the planning stage are a series of masterclasses to be presented by Deloitte and a conference jointly hosted by us and the lawyers DLA Piper on AI and automation.
This is a bit inward-looking, I know, but we have also been building up our membership and marketing strategy. We will make some announcements about this shortly and during the year ahead you will hopefully notice a big difference in our market presence.
HEALTH TECHNOLOGIES SECTOR NEWS
WM5G in the West Midlands
The West Midlands has the distinct advantage of a 5G test bed and Robert Franks of WM5G has written about the advantages accruing to our region as a result. He explains the first benefit that WM5G is seeing is the early stages of large 5G amounts of coverage in major cities such as Birmingham:
“According to Independent analysts, we have 22% geographic coverage in our region, which is the highest in the UK because we’re a heavily urbanised region that equates to over 50% population coverage. In other words, 50% of people in the Midlands have access to a 5G signal from one or multiple operators.”
To find out more watch Roberts’ #Talking5G videos here.
Smart diagnostics can lead for growth
We have been working hard during our first year to build up and promote the diagnostics community in the West Midlands. With financial and policy backing from the Combined Authority we have run a support programme called DIAGCOMM. In our view, this programme has been very successful and we are recommended that the programme should be continued and developed further by:
(1) Extending the programme into the East Midlands as well; and
(2) Planting the flag here for a UK home for the diagnostics sector.
In this context, it is encouraging to read an article in The Guardian reporting the views of Professor Chris Molloy, founder of the Lighthouse labs network, that there is an opportunity to create another legacy for the Lighthouse labs and the testing system:
“The population has been schooled in ordering a test online, getting it through the post, doing it in the home, popping it back in the post, getting a result on their phone, and most importantly changing their behaviour as a result.”
Now that most of the lighthouse labs have been shut down, leaving the Rosalind Franklin lab in Leamington Spa as the main facility in England. This is on our patch and could well be a major asset as the foundation for the UK diagnostics sector.
WEST MIDLANDS REGION NEWS
Shared Prosperity Fund
There are many projects in the West Midlands currently funded by EU initiatives such as ERDF. Brexit means that these funding streams will no longer be available, and the UK Government long ago promised to replace them with UK funding – from the Shared Prosperity Fund.
Now the Government has published the Shared Prosperity Fund prospectus and the first allocations of funding to Combined Authority Mayors and to local authorities. In this prospectus, the Government also sets out how Mayors and councils are expected to draw up – in consultation with local stakeholders – investment plans for using these funds. The money can be used to award grants, commission services or directly provide services.
On your behalf, we are asking to be one of the stakeholders to be consulted on drawing up these investment plans for the West Midlands. I will report the responses we receive in due course.
Digital Health Hub Pilot
We saw this month a new call for applications for 3-year funding for digital health hub pilots issued by UKRI and Innovate UK. The funding is a total of £8M and no single award will be more than £3.2M – and this is over 3 years.
In my view, applications will need to be very focused and very strong collaborative bids.
I definitely think the West Midlands should put in an application. To this end, I have contacted several key organisations who would need to be associated with the application and I have proposed a collaborative c-production of an application with great engagement with a wide range of stakeholders. With support from the Combined Authority, I am working on this right now and I will let you know how I get on.
Incubators as engines of growth
The roundtable, hosted by our Cluster and the GBSLP Growth Hub, that I reported last month went ahead on 30th March and was very successful. We had an experienced and engaged audience and together we came up with an agreed narrative with recommendations on how to make the most of existing incubators and expand incubator services so that we use them more strategically in helping the sector to grow.
The Growth Hub and the Cluster intend to disseminate the narrative widely and to extend our contacts with a view to growing the region’s incubator services and joining them up with a more strategic approach to supporting new businesses. I will keep on reporting progress back to you.
Read more here
NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS
Data and digital – a growing field of activity
The online publication Health Tech World recently featured one example of a digital platform, which uses machine-learning technology to analyse patients’ experience of care. It serves as an indicator of the growing interest in helping healthcare organisations identify where and how to improve the patient experience.
Government funding to rebuild drug treatment services
Birmingham is one of 50 local authorities to receive enhanced funding for its drug treatment services in recognition of the deep levels of deprivation, hardship and addiction that need to be addressed.
Birmingham’s 2022-23 allocation of over £3M includes the additional grants to improve services in line with the ambitions of the 2021 drug strategy, and the recommendations from Dame Carol Black’s independent review.
New Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England
The Department of Health and Social Care has confirmed that Dr Thomas Waite has been appointed as Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England. Dr Waite graduated in Medicine from Cardiff University and holds postgraduate qualifications in public health, medical toxicology and medical education. After his medical and public health training, he held posts in global health, infectious disease and environmental health protection.
Cluster member Linear Diagnostics was formed in 2011 as a spin out from the University of Birmingham by the founders Dr Matt Hicks, Prof Tim Dafforn and Bioscience Ventures.
The Linear Diagnostics platform technology has the potential to perform rapid, accurate, cost-effective diagnostic testing without the need for laboratory facilities. This can be applied to a wide range of sectors including food, agriculture, defence and security, veterinary, and medicine.
The company is a beneficiary of incubator services provided by the University of Birmingham including through the Bio Hub at Birmingham Research Park.
I hope you enjoy reading my e-bulletin. Feel free to contact me personally with your feedback and suggestions for future activities at firstname.lastname@example.org
Executive Chair, April 2022