From next week, our CEO Sarah Haywood will move to a new role within MedCity, as Executive Director and board member. Sarah has been with MedCity since its inception in 2014 and here she reflects on how the organisation has grown and developed over the years.

When I left the UK Department for Business (then Business Innovation and Skills – now BEIS, Business Energy and Industrial Strategy) at the end of 2013, I had no idea I was about to spend the next five and a half years working to set up, and run, MedCity.  Of course, when you start something from scratch, not everything works and there is always a degree of trial and error. I certainly could not have predicted the political landscape shifts that we have experienced, and the life sciences industrial strategy wasn’t even in the vernacular when we started our journey.

Since then, I’ve seen our team grow from zero, to a steady team of twelve. Consistently by our side has been our Chair, Eliot Forster, and Prof Simon Howell from King’s College London, our trusted supporter and crucially our grant-holder for the critical funding support we have had from the HEFCE Catalyst Fund. The Mayor of London and our colleagues at the GLA have also been an essential part of MedCity’s story and I am grateful to all of them for their continued support. During my time as CEO we’ve had three homes, and I shall always be grateful to the Francis Crick Institute team – in particular David Roblin when he was COO there – who allowed us to bunk up with them at Wellcome in the first few months of operation. 

I certainly could not have predicted the political landscape shifts that we have experienced, and the life sciences industrial strategy wasn’t even in the vernacular when we started our journey.

I have seen team members come and go and it has been a pleasure to watch our team alumni go on to develop their careers after MedCity. Equally, the Management Board has changed in membership, but the steadfast support of London’s Academic Health Science Centres has been vital to our success and I am grateful to Prof Sir Robert Lechler, Prof David Lomas, Prof Jonathan Weber and Prof Steve Thornton at KCL, UCL, Imperial and QMUL respectively for their time and input – I know how busy you are!

I’m proud of all that we’ve accomplished so far. Today we have our thriving Angels in MedCity programme, delivered in partnership with Newable and supported by some great sponsors. The London Advanced Therapies and the Advanced Therapies Network, started in 2018. DigitalHealth.London, which has given focus to the work to bring the innovator community and the NHS together and has been a great partnership with our AHSN colleagues. We’re currently in the middle of selecting the companies to join cohort 4 of the accelerator programme. Collaborate to Innovate has forged many new partnerships between some of our most exciting SMEs and universities.  Both DigitalHealth.London Accelerator and Collaborate to Innovate have benefitted from ERDF support.  Our report on the demand for life sciences space – Planning for Growth – Demand for Healthcare R&D Space in London – has helped to shape the landscape of London. We have also contributed significantly to the development of Evidence Standards Framework for Digital Health TechnologiesIt really has been a wonderful five and a half years.

The time has now come for me to hand over the reins. I am very happy to say however that this is not good-bye. From the beginning of July, I will continue to work with MedCity as Executive Director one day a week, and I shall remain a member of the board. I’ll be spending more time in Oxford, where I am going to help take forward Advanced Oxford, a new business-led group, with members drawn from leading knowledge-based companies in the Oxfordshire region. Our wonderful COO, Neelam Patel, will be taking on the role of CEO of MedCity in the interim. I know I am passing the baton to a fantastic colleague, who has been with MedCity almost as long as I have. Neelam has a deep knowledge of the organisation, our values and work and has been at the heart of planning for 2019 and beyond. I am excited to be taking on a new challenge. 

It has been my privilege to take MedCity from concept to a vibrant and resp‎ected organisation. That has been down to teamwork and the contributions of everyone who has been part of MedCity’s journey so far.

For fear that this becomes like an Oscar acceptance speech, I should note that there are far, far too many people that I need and ought to thank. I cannot list you all.  MedCity, however, has thrived because of the relationships that we have formed and the colleagues that we work with, spanning the life sciences industry, investors, the world of real estate, the NHS, our universities and research institutions, the third sector and government at all levels.  It has been my privilege to take MedCity from concept to a vibrant and resp‎ected organisation. That has been down to teamwork and the contributions of everyone who has been part of MedCity’s journey so far. I am truly thankful that I am not saying goodbye and that I will have the opportunity to continue to work with all of you and support MedCity’s excellent work as we move from strength to strength.