Reflections on our recent Life Science Innovation and Investor Showcase in Leeds
Earlier this month, we joined forces with the Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA) to deliver the Life Science Innovation and Investor Showcase in Leeds, supported by Research England and Research and Innovation UK. The event brought together more than 50 research and innovation managers and investors, alongside other UK life science cluster organisations – the Health Innovation Research Alliance North Ireland (HIRANI) and Midlands Engine Health. Our Programme and Project Lead, Sarah Bruce-White, co-organiser and speaker on the day, reflects here on the significance of the event, and sounds out opinions from some of those who attended.
In the weeks leading up to the Life Science Innovation and Investor Showcase on March 3rd, MedCity CEO Neelam Patel and the NHSA’s Séamus O’Neill had discussed the potential of the event. They wanted it to serve as an exemplar of how clusters can work together across regions to drive investment into areas of innovation and research excellence. Expectations were high, but would the event deliver on its potential?
In search of answers, I decided to follow up with some of those who had joined me at the event. I was keen to understand what the key takeaways had been for them, and any outcomes that they might be taking forward, such as potential new partnerships or conversations to be further explored.
One of the highlights for me was hearing from Dr Chris McKee, Business Development and Innovation Manager at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. After the event, Chris told me:
“I was delighted to have the opportunity to join and speak at the NHSA and MedCity Life Science Innovation and Investor Showcase, with so many key stakeholders from across the UK gathered together in NEXUS, Leeds. The wider opportunities for collaboration became immediately apparent and the exposure to investors has been particularly useful. This will no doubt prove itself to be of high value to a wide range of Healthtech SME and innovation partners that we are working with at the Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust and our recently launched Innovation Pop-up.”
It was also a pleasure to meet Jason Mellad from Start Codon and welcome him as a speaker at the event. When I questioned him some weeks later about the outcomes, he said:
“The MedCity and NHSA event really opened my eyes to the talent, opportunity, and ambition in Leeds as well the surrounding Northern regions — especially relevant for Start Codon as our portfolio includes companies based across the UK. The conference provided an excellent opportunity to network with other support organisations — accelerators, catapults, investors, and Academic Health Science Network representatives — all of whom are potential Start Codon partners. The NHS innovation leaders at the meeting had a clear understanding of the unmet needs that our portfolio companies could and should be addressing with their technologies, and the partners I met can help drive both NHS adoption as well as broader commercialisation.
“Following the conference, I’ve followed up with incubators, AHSNs, investors, and accelerators to forge new partnerships. In addition, I have met with several founders and early-stage companies who have now applied to the Start Codon programme”.
Ruth Bradbury, a senior NHS navigator at DigitalHealth.London, travelled up to Leeds to join us as a speaker and shared her thoughts:
“The Innovation and Investor Showcase event was a fantastic platform to publicise the accelerator and support programmes available to promote the spread, adoption and scaling of innovation across life sciences and digital ecosystems. Whilst I have a particular focus on the London and the South East ecosystem, it was great to be able to learn about opportunities that support innovators on a wider regional basis and how the healthcare system and academia are intrinsically linked into these programmes. I personally have been able to link up with investors and research bodies who see the potential in understanding my programme in more detail and I believe this joined up thinking is the way to promote greater spread and adoption opportunities for the innovators I support.”
It wasn’t just the innovators and speakers who had positive things to say about both the showcase itself and the outcomes; the investors we had invited also found it very beneficial. For me, this was a real affirmation of the event’s impact. Elizabeth Young from ACF Investors had this to say:
“The MedCity and NHSA event really highlighted the potential of maximising collaborations across the North and with the more developed ecosystems in the South. The amount of support available for entrepreneurs in the North was encouraging and I look forward to bringing further support to that ecosystem by mentoring across some of the programmes that presented at the event”.
For Alex Gwyther, investor at Mercia Asset Management, the highlights included,
“Hearing about the networks of accelerators and incubators that are there to support exciting new life science and health tech start-ups from across the UK. I was especially pleased to see several in the regions of the UK working with companies outside of the life sciences ‘golden triangle’ in the South East.
“I have already followed up with further conversations with several of the accelerators and connected them with colleagues across Mercia. We’ve agreed ways for Mercia to keep up to date with any exciting up-and-coming companies from their cohorts we should meet.”
Crucial to the event’s success was the enthusiasm and commitment of the team at the NHSA, with whom I was privileged to work, alongside my colleagues at MedCity.
NHSA Cluster Development Manager Ben Martyn neatly summed up our common objective:
“Access to investment is a vital part of any company’s journey to success, but we know it can be much more of a challenge for businesses in the North. Working collaboratively and overcoming geographical inequalities is key to redress the balance… By working with MedCity and thinking outside the box, we have the opportunity to connect investors to teams co-developing innovative solutions to unmet needs within the healthcare system.”
From what I witnessed on the day, and from the feedback received, we have begun to make those connections, realising the power of joined-up working across clusters. It was really encouraging to see how inspired the investors were and how engaged many have already been with follow up that continues to benefit both the innovators, the investors in the ecosystem and ultimately patients and healthcare systems.
For those that couldn’t make it this time, don’t panic… planning is underway for the next event and we’ll share news on that as soon as we can. If you’d like to find out more, or speak with me about the event or any aspect of engaging with early-stage life sciences companies or our Investment Hub programme please e-mail me on email@example.com
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