CLUSTER NEWS – March 2023
Disappointment and good news for the WM Innovation Accelerator
This month, we received the formal notification from Innovate UK that our Smart Connections application has not been successful. The successful projects, here and in Glasgow and the Northwest were announced alongside the Budget on 15th March.
We received feedback from Innovate UK of the assessors’ scores and comments for our application. Mostly, the assessors’ comments were positive. They agreed that we have rightly assessed the failings in the West Midlands that need to be addressed. They approved of our focus on getting all the important players to collaborate.
I can see, however, that we suffered from a lack of partners in Birmingham itself (our project had partners in Coventry, Keele and Kidderminster – and one in Birmingham). Some assessors felt that our team lacked critical mass. The reason for the lack of Birmingham partners, though, is that University of Birmingham attracted a good number of partners for its high-value project, which I am pleased to see has been approved for funding.
Our overall score from the assessors was 70.8%, which is respectable – and is above the quality threshold which was set at 70%. However, I was told that three of the five assessors did not recommend our project and so it was not put forward to WMCA for consideration by its panel.
We plan to support the funded projects as much as we can and to help our region make the most of this 2-year funding for innovation – generate more ideas, support innovators, help with protection of IP, link innovators with universities, develop prototypes and commercialise products faster.
On Tuesday 7th March, our regular Topical Tuesday featured Fungai Ndemera, Tech Founder of CheckUp Health. In the week of International Women’s Day, Fungai spoke brilliantly about encouraging more women into HealthTech. She was really inspiring. Missed it? watch the video here
We had a great presence at Venturefest 2023 on 1st March with a stand in the exhibition hall, attendance at various sessions and Emma wrote a blog about the day. All the hard work by Emma and Ahmar was rewarded with a bumper number of enquiries about the work of the Cluster and Emma and Ahmar have been following up on these ever since.
The next meeting of our Board of Directors was held on 29th March where we set a budget for 2023-24.
The next Topical Tuesday, will take place later in the month on the 18th of April because of the Bank Holidays, we are still working hard on the details but we have plans to share details on the new Innovation Accelerator program. Register now and stay intouch, click here.
The next Innovative Health Working Group meeting will be exploring the topic – What will tomorrows Hospitals be like? held at the UHCW, find more details here.
HEALTH TECHNOLOGIES SECTOR NEWS
Science, Innovation & Technology
The new Departmen for Science, Innovation & Technology now has a full team of Ministers. They are:
Michelle Donelan – Secretary of State
George Freeman MP – Minister of State (Minister for Science, Research and Innovation)
Julia Lopez MP – Minister of State (Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure)
Paul Scully MP – Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy)
Viscount Camrose – Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for AI and Intellectual Property)(House of Lords)
Full details on the Department’s webpages.
Budget commits £3.5bn to science and technology
Around £1 billion of government funding has been pledged for the next generation of supercomputing and AI research to establish the UK as a science and technology superpower.
The Government accepts all the recommendations from Sir Patrick Vallance’s Review into smarter regulation, which could bring about a transformation towards modern, fit-for-purpose regulation of our future science and technology industries.
A new Quantum Strategy, backed by £2.5 billion in the next 10 years, is set to pave the way for bringing new investment, fast-growing businesses and high-quality jobs to the UK.
All the news can be found on the Department’s webpages.
WEST MIDLANDS REGION NEWS
Digital Health Excellence in Technology Innovation
We are partners with University of Chester in convening a 1-day conference in Shrewsbury on Tuesday 25th April on the subject of digital health excellence in technology innovation. The Cluster’s interest in this conference is two-fold. First, we are keen to reach every part of the West Midlands region so that no communities feel excluded from our work. Secondly, many parts of our region are rural and we are keen to examine how we best support businesses and patients who are in rural locations. I have agreed to chair the proceedings at the conference.
Register to attend this event here.
Life Sciences in Europe – how does the West Midlands compare?
JLL’s Research Lab has released its latest report on the state of Life Sciences in Europe. The research includes surveys of the top performing clusters in Europe. I am not aware of the West Midlands (Birmingham in the report) has featured in JLL’s reports before now. But in this year’s report, we are recognised!
I could be making too much of this, but could the reason for our emergence this year have anything to do with the setting up of our Cluster just two years ago?
Still, we should not get too carried away. In our first entry in this table of top performers in Europe, our scores on JLL’s system are reasonable for “ecosystem” and “talent” but weaknesses (which we already know about) are in funding and real estate. As I read the report, it is lab space that is highlighted at being in short supply.
Take a look at the report for yourself and see what you think.
NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS
For the West Midlands, probably the most significant news is the Deeper Devolution Deal for the Combined Authority.
The Combined Authority has secured:
- Up to £500 million to support housing and regeneration projects in the region.
- £100m being invested through a Single Regeneration Fund which will support the Combined Authority to deliver 4,000 homes and a further £400m coming from Homes England through the affordable housing settlement for the region.
- New powers which will allow a dramatic shift in decision making, with strategic control over future development sitting with the West Midlands rather than Whitehall.
In his Spring Budget, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said he has agreed 12 areas for new investment zones: in England, they are the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, the north-east, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, East Midlands, Teesside, and Liverpool.
There will also be at least one investment zone in Scotland, one in Wales and one in Northern Ireland.
There will tax advantages for businesses located within the investment zones.
Each English investment zone will have access to interventions worth £80m over five years, including tax reliefs and grant funding.
Local government and research institutions will be able to tailor their Investment Zone plan to their local circumstances.
To be chosen, each area must identify a suitable location.
The Treasury said plans must “credibly set out” how local partners will use the levers available to “propel growth in priority sectors, identify private sector match funding, and use the local planning system to support growth”.
The details are expected to be settled by December 2023.
Birmingham Health Innovation Campus (BHIC)
I make no apologies for returning to bring you news of progress in building the first phase of this 657,000 sq. ft. development called BHIC at Selly Oak, within sight of Queen Elizabeth Hospital and University of Birmingham. This University land is being developed by Bruntwood SciTech as a landmark for our region’s HealthTech sector. This new state-of-the-art life sciences hub has already attracted over £1bn and is under construction right now, the latest sign of the region positioning itself as a key player in the UK’s HealthTech space.
I believe it will become a bright Beacon, demonstrating our strength in this sector and attracting a lot of attention both win and beyond the West Midlands.
The first of potentially half a dozen or so tall buildings will be completed later this year. It will provide a home – on the top three floors – for the University’s Precision Health Technologies Accelerator, led by Professor Gino Martini. It will also significantly enhance our region’s offer in terms of lab space. For more information, see https://phta.co.uk/
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