Last week saw the formal launch of the Medical Devices Testing and Evaluation Centre (MD-TEC) within the Institute of Translational Medicine in Birmingham. MD-TEC’s goal is to accelerate the translation of novel medical innovations from the laboratory through to the clinic and commercial exploitation. It is an excellent example of how local innovation funding and partnerships can support, de-risk and accelerate product innovation, a model that could easily be replicated in other sectors and elsewhere.
MD-TEC supports the development of existing markets and stimulates new ones for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the Life Sciences sector. The Centre provides facilities, expertise and resources that will boost the Life Science community in the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBS LEP) area, by helping SMEs to bring products to market quickly, at lower cost and with reduced risk.
There are a number of factors that have come together to make MD-TEC an interesting and effective model for stimulating and accelerating innovation. These were variously highlighted in presentations at the launch by the Rt Hon Jacqui Smith, Chair of University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB), Andy Street, West Midlands Mayor, and by MD-TEC staff members. Key attributes of MD-TEC are:
- Demand-led – the lead partner is UHB, one of the largest and highest performing NHS Trusts in Europe, thus providing access to wide-ranging clinical expertise and knowledge of where innovation and new products may find a market.
- Meets SME need for test facilities– The medical devices market is huge and complex – there are about 500k recognised devices in Europe, but the average size of the 29k companies producing them is two employees. At least a third of product failures are due to user issues. MD-TEC provides access to simulation and health technology lab space that would normally be unaffordable by SMEs.
- Partnership to provide expertise – Along with UHB, the University of Birmingham and Aston University provide wide-ranging, multi-disciplinary expertise from engineering, life sciences and other areas to support SMEs with all aspects of design and product develoment.
- ‘Wrap-around’ business support – to compliment technical support, businesses can be assisted with understanding and tackling regulations, IP issues, commercial modelling, access to finance and more.
- Business-focused funding – MD-TEC’s funding has come via GBS LEP, a business-led partnership with a primary aim to drive growth and prosperity across Greater Birmingham & Solihull. MD-TEC is a £7m project funded by GBS LEP’s European Regional Development Fund Innovation Strand and building on earlier City Deal investment. This has given MD-TEC and its parent body the ITM a business focus from the outset.
- Regional Strategic Fit – The focus of MD-TEC on medical devices gives it a strong fit to the findings of the West Midlands Science and Innovation Audit which found this to be a key market opportunity for the West Midlands. Both the three local LEPs and the West Midlands Combined Authority are likely to encourge and promote the activities of MD-TEC, giving scope for its reach to extend beyond the GBS LEP area.
MD-TEC is, therefore, a good case study of a demand-led, business relevant, collaborative project that is likely to have a very positive impact on a sector of regional opportunity.
Pam Waddell, Innovation Alliance for the West Midlands