As we move into the last quarter of our 2022-3 financial year, our CEO Neelam Patel reflects on highlights from the past year and outlines our ongoing priorities for 2023.
When MedCity was founded in April 2014, tasked with accelerating life sciences innovation and industry growth in London and beyond, the Francis Crick Institute was yet to open and life sciences inward foreign direct investment was just £359 million – compared with the £1.8 billion that came into the UK in 2021 (gov.uk, 2022).
Since then we have generated GVA of over £54 million (2016 to 2021) with a lean team of around 10 full time equivalent staff over the same period, a significant achievement.
A strategic review of the changing London landscape, international demand and sector policies resulted in reaffirming our mission and refining our programmes and offers to the ecosystem. Our two main areas of focus are:
- supporting entrepreneurialism to scale business growth and innovation, and
- showcasing London and advising on life sciences cluster development to attract inward investment.
Over the past 12 months our small but mighty team has supported over 200 early-stage companies to access nondilutive funding, private equity funding, collaborative partnerships, commercialisation advice, innovator visas, and space in which to grow their businesses.
We work with companies across all modalities but focus particularly on three areas that are driving rapid changes in patient outcomes, and in which London has particular strengths: diagnostics, cell and gene therapies, and data & AI-enabled technologies. This year we have seen our diagnostics activities flourish.
Through our Collaborate to Innovate: London Diagnostics programme, supported by the Mayor of London, we launched projects with nine London-based diagnostic healthcare SMEs. These projects are developing the next generation of screening tests and technologies to detect some of the UK’s most debilitating diseases. Each SME has been matched with leading specialists in diagnostics R&D, clinical translation and commercialisation to create a joint research project, supported by up to £100,000, including up to £50,000 from the London Economic Action Plan. Read our earlier news story here.
In 2023, these projects will complete and we’ll be reporting on the outputs and continued collaborations. In a separate iteration of the C2N programme we have delivered three collaborative stroke therapy projects with the support of The Stroke Association, and will also be sharing these outcomes. Our report in this newsletter on the impact of the two Collaborate to Innovate Advanced Therapies rounds demonstrates the considerable economic and scientific impact that is possible through the work we do convening industry and academia.
Meanwhile, the Diagnostics Growth Hub — a consortium of world-leading organisations led by MedCity — has continued to evolve. The Hub is now supporting 39 companies in helping to accelerate their diagnostics technologies, and we recently submitted a case study to the Office of Life Sciences to demonstrate how the Hub could be scaled up across the UK to bring life-saving diagnostics tests to patients sooner. An extension of the Hub has been our series of Biomarker Matchmaking events. Our last event yielded two academic-industry collaborations, one of which is setting out to transform prostate cancer diagnostics. Read the story here. We are planning our next Biomarker Matchmaking event for April.
Convening the SME Community
Providing the foundation for much of our work supporting entrepreneurship, we launched MedCity Community in 2022. We have now welcomed over 200 members, including companies that were part of the P4 Precision Medicine Accelerator, which we supported this year.
We will continue to build on our membership base, reporting on the successes of member companies as we help them to raise investment, secure grants and collaborate with industry and academic partners. Our November Company of the Month, iFast, December Company of the Month, Holly Health, and our January 2023 Company of the Month Surgery Hero are among recent examples.
Investment levelling up
We are also championing UK-wide entrepreneurialism by joining together with the Northern Health Science Alliance to connect innovators and researchers in the north of England with the investment community concentrated in London and the South East. Funded by Research England, this cross-cluster project resulted in last year’s successful Life Science Innovation and Investor Showcase in Leeds, supported by fellow-clusters HIRANI in Northern Ireland and the Midlands Health Engine. We are excited to be staging another joint cluster investment summit at The Crick Institute in London on 14 March 2023. One of the panels will focus on the case for increasing investment in underrepresented founders, a theme we will continue to explore in our investment programmes for 2023, as part of our wider EDI activity. Investors are encouraged to register for the 14 March event.
Developing the London life science ecosystem
Our other main area of focus is in developing the London life science ecosystem, connecting it to national partners and showcasing the strengths internationally.
Our two Demand Reports (2016 and 2021) identifying a lack of lab space in London have been widely cited and have influenced the development of life sciences infrastructure in London.
Tracking lab space to meet demand
The acute shortage of lab space has been a barrier to the growth of SMEs. To address this we founded the Lab Providers Forum in 2021, bringing together our academic partners and all commercial providers of lab space in London and the region to aid navigation and enable knowledge exchange in the complex ecosystem. Throughout the year we have referred a number of SME founders, who are now settling into their new spaces (including our Company of the Month). The Forum has grown to 17 members, meeting regularly through 2022. This is providing us with good visibility of the pipeline of lab space, and in 2023 we plan to report on the extent to which the pipeline is fulfilling demand.
Connecting the life sciences ecosystem in London with other centres of innovation is vital in keeping companies in the UK by supporting their access to wider capabilities such as manufacturing and specialist skills. Establishing a runway for advanced therapies companies to move from early research facilities near academia and clinics in London to scaled manufacturing capabilities in Stevenage is an example. (Read the Lab & GMP Manufacturing White Paper published with the Cell & Gene Therapy Catapult at Stevenage for more on this.)
Supporting innovation districts
In 2022 we have supported the continued evolution of London’s innovation districts, including the launches of SC1, Paddington Life Sciences, and the Innovation Gateway at the London Cancer Hub. Our efforts to map the assets of each innovation district, understanding their capabilities and showcasing their strengths internationally, will increasingly be key to attracting foreign direct investment — and to representing a unified London internationally.
One example is our work with the boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark, mapping their life science assets and capabilities, much of which sits within the SC1 innovation district. In 2023 we will be exploring expansion of this activity, supporting boroughs not only in scoping and promoting their life science assets, but also advising on strategies for how local communities can benefit from the life science districts in their neighbourhoods, particularly through vocational training.
Showcasing UK strengths internationally
We have used our international networks and outreach in 2022 to drive strategic partnerships and collaborations. Highlights include:
- Leading the UK delegation to BioJapan in October. MedCity has led a UK delegation to BioJapan since 2015; in 2022 we returned post-pandemic to re-establish face to face relationships and accelerate strategic partnerships. We look forward to returning in October 2023. Read more about the delegation here.
- Hosting international delegations to London, such as The Belgian Economic Mission that came to the UK in May, led by HRH Princess Astrid of Belgium, which included 49 life science companies. It was an opportunity for us to promote the strengths of London and the UK, and we selected six UK companies with diverse founders to present their technologies to the delegation.
- Signing an agreement with Astra Zeneca China to develop collaborative opportunities. We will be sharing more on this over the coming months.
In the year ahead, we will continue to create regular opportunities for companies in our community and programmes to present to industry and investor audiences overseas — and to represent London and its innovation districts on the world stage as an entry point for inward investment and strategic collaborations.
Across these highlights of our work in 2022 we have been grateful for the support of our academic and NHS partners and the many other people and organisations who champion our mission. We look forward to building on these relationships in 2023 as we continue to grow life science innovation and investment in London.
Collaborate with us
If you would like to explore how you can work with us through partnerships, consultancy projects or sponsorship please get in touch.
Also look out for our 2022-2023 Impact Report coming soon. (You can read our previous Impact Report for 2021-2 here.)