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CLUSTER NEWS – December 2022

Season’s Greetings

We’re coming to the end of the calendar year and entering into the Christmas break and time of festivities – or just  taking a breather!

All is not well with the UK’s economy, nor with the world at large for that matter. Here at the Cluster, we all send you our best wishes for a happy and restful end of the year and prosperity in the New Year. There will be opportunities next year for our region’s HealthTech sector and we will be here to support you in getting the most out of those opportunities.

With the very cold weather that we are experiencing this winter, do please consider if you can help others who suffer disproportionately from the cold and give what support you can.

Looking forward to being back in touch with you in 2023!


December Webinar in newsletter

Topical Tuesday in December was replaced by a brilliant webinar “Your Innovation Journey:  How to navigate Innovation support” brought to us by Simon Spink, Independent Innovation Consultant, and Deepak Pathak, Senior Innovation and Growth Specialist, Innovate UK EDGE. The webinar focused on what the ideal innovation journey should look like, and how one should navigate through it.
If you missed it or would like a second look, please find the video recording here.

January’s Topical Tuesday will be exploring the topic “Transforming health and social care through innovation” Opportunities for businesses at West Midlands Academic Health Science Network (WMAHSN)

We ask Reena Sidhu (tbc) Digital Health Innovation Manager, WMAHSN, what can be expected in 2023 and how businesses in the Life Science and Health Tech community can benefit from the network. To find out more and register for this event click here.

In 2023, my intention is to start offering in-person seminars. Do you think this is a good idea? Please contact me with your views.

2022 Diagnostic Conference

Our second Annual Diagnostics Conference, jointly hosted with University of Warwick, was held on Thursday 15 December at University of Warwick Oculus building, entitled- ‘Building a Sustainable UK Diagnostic Sector II: the Regional Dimension’ event. This event brought together key stakeholders from across the NHS, academia, industry and regulatory bodies to explore how we can enhance cross-sector collaboration to turbo-charge local growth by building the infrastructure necessary for the development and implementation of innovative diagnostics.

Our first meeting held in September 2021 considered how we can best exploit the commercial, scientific and health opportunities in diagnostics driven by the new knowledge, investment and innovation demonstrated by the UK diagnostics sector in response to Covid 19. This follow-on conference considered the regional opportunities afforded by these developments and consider how we can best leverage our cross-sector strengths to build a world-leading diagnostics enterprise in the West Midlands.

This time with a focus on our distinctive expertise in diagnostics, data and devices, we considered how best to exploit these assets to create a sustainable and internationally-recognised activity in the West Midlands. Highlights included talks from Karen Taylor, Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions. Karen discussed Deloitte’s new report The future of diagnostics: Technology driven personalised and preventative healthcare. The world leading PathLAKE – Transforming cellular pathology with artificial intelligence. For those that were unable to attend we will be sharing recordings of the talks in the new year.


Digital treatment is just as good as face-to-face treatment

Researchers from Lund University have confirmed in a new study that both digital and face-to-face treatment of hip and knee osteoarthritis provide equally clinically relevant improvement. In 2021, a randomized controlled trial conducted at the University of Nottingham, England was published showing that people with knee osteoarthritis who randomly received digital treatment, reduced their pain and increased their physical function more than those who received face-to-face treatment.

The researchers’ aim was to find out whether there is any clinically relevant difference in joint pain between three months of digital treatment for hip and knee pain via Joint Academy and face-to-face treatment in accordance with BOA (Better Care of Patients with Arthritis) in Sweden. The researchers found that digital treatment joint pain works just as well as face-to-face treatment. In addition, they recommend that patients themselves should be allowed to choose whether they want to undergo digital or face-to-face osteoarthritis treatment. Increasing accessibility, especially for those who find it difficult to access face-to-face treatment because of distance, is something that benefits both the patient and the healthcare system, says Leif Dahlberg, medical director at Joint Academy and professor emeritus at Lund University.

Bioscience and health technology sector statistics 2021

The Office for Life Sciences has this month published its statistics for the bioscience and health technology sector in the UK for the Year 2021. The OLS definition of the sector is not an exact match with the regional sector covered by the Cluster, but it is near enough to give us a feel for the UK-wide picture, and for the first time OLS is publishing data on employment and turnover at the local authority district level.

There is some comfort in the data comparing 2021 with the previous year, 2020 as in the latter year there was an increase in:

3% increase in life sciences businesses
4% increase in the people employed in the UK life sciences sector
9% increase in turnover. You can find all the data here.

MSc Diagnostics, Data and Digital Health

An exciting announcement of a new MSc in Diagnostics, Data and Digital Health at University of Warwick from October 2023. I am not aware of another course like it in the UK and it looks really geared to meeting industry’s needs. I spoke to them about this new course and they tell me they are also investigating the possibility of offering a Masters-level apprenticeship as part of this programme. Find out more here.

Awards Graphic Extension Deadline

Deadline Extended for Medilink Midlands Business Awards

Have you submitted your nomination for the Medilink Midlands Business Awards 2023 yet?

Sponsored by the University of Birmingham and the Precision Health Technologies Accelerator (PHTA), the 2023 Awards will once again celebrate the achievements, innovations, and breakthroughs of life sciences and medtech companies across the East and West Midlands. Find out more here.


Young people, employment and wellbeing

A Policy Commission being led by the University of Birmingham, as part of the European University for Wellbeing (EUniWell) network, is currently looking at the impact of the pandemic specifically on the well-being of young people (15-24-year-olds). Young people were at less risk of serious harm from COVID-19, but this study looks at the impact on mental health and wellbeing of, for example, interrupted education, unemployment, bereavement and restrictions on movement as part of society’s response to the pandemic.

Birmingham has a combination of a very large (and diverse) population of young people (almost 40% of the population is under 25) and a level of youth unemployment that is higher than in other major cities in the UK. This unemployment rate for 18–24-year-olds rose significantly during the first year of the pandemic: from 6.3% in February 2020 to 11.6% in March 2021. In a recent blog, Paul Vallance argues that there is a greater need than ever to support young people in Birmingham with transition from education into employment. Given the unprecedented circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, this support should also as much as possible be applied retrospectively to the cohort of school leavers whose lives and career plans have been most disrupted over the past two and a half years. Read the blog here for the full case.

First West Midlands Strategic Director for Digital Health and Care

Professor David Rosser, Chief Executive at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB), is leaving UHB at the end of the year to become our region’s first Strategic Director for Digital Health and Care. His role is to examine a range of interventions that can make a difference to the life of citizens and staff – from how mobile technology can support people to book services online, through to how organisations share data to support improvements in care. I have a meeting arranged with David Rosser this month to talk about his new role and how we can link in the Cluster’s members to the work he will be doing.


Target of at least 2.4% of GDP investment in R&D maintained

Amid all the gloomy economic and fiscal news on spending cuts and tax rises announced by the Chancellor in November, the research budget remained relatively intact – and innovation was reaffirmed as a cornerstone of the Government’s plan for growth alongside energy measures and infrastructure investment.

The Chancellor said the research budget will be protected and reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to raising public spending on R&D to £20bn by 2024/25. Whilst protected in cash terms, this represent a real-terms cut given the high levels of inflation over the past year. Even so, the planned rise in R&D spending still marks a notable increase of around £5bn, or a third, from spending in 2021/22 and is in line with ambitions laid out in the Levelling Up White Paper. This is good news for researchers in the public sector and those in the private sector engaged in collaborative cross-sector innovation.

Investment Zones will be focused on a ‘limited number of the highest potential knowledge-intensive growth clusters’ to leverage local research strengths, which spells good news for research-intensive universities.

NHS Digital Productivity Programme

The digital productivity programme aims to support commitments on digitally enabled care set out in the NHS Long Term Plan. Key projects within the programme include Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Real Time Locating Systems/Radio Frequency Identification (RTLS/RFID) and Extended Reality technologies (XR).

You can read the strategy, including the delivery plans for 2022-23 and for 2023 onwards here.

There is a drive to enable scale and spread of productivity-improving technology across the health and care system by providing organisations with:

  • Evidence-led good practice and buyers guidance;
  • Financial support via the Unified Tech Fund and Digital Productivity Fund;
  • Access to communities of practice; and
  • A comprehensive library of evidence and case studies.

Spotlight on

Penningtons Manches Cooper

This Solicitors business (international and with an office in Birmingham) is a member of the Cluster and a great friend for us. As well as paying a membership fee, the law firm has sponsored a conference we jointly arranged with University of Warwick last year (our first Annual Diagnostics Conference) and provided free use of a conference room at its offices in Church Street for our cocreation meeting when we were preparing our application, with partners, to the WM Innovation Accelerator for our Smart Connections project. These Solicitors can help businesses with their supplier contracts, IP strategy and R&D tax credits. One of the firm’s partners, Lisa Page, is also one of our directors. I wish to extend my personal thanks to the company for its support and inspiration over the past year. Thank you.

I hope you enjoy reading my e-bulletin. Feel free to contact me personally with your feedback and suggestions for future activities at david@wmhtc.co.uk


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Executive Chair, December 2022