UK Life Sciences Investment Summit 2023

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Clusters unite to connect innovators & investors

Midlands Innovation Health (MI Health) has supported MedCity and the Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA) over the past three years in the delivery of their Research England funded project to supercharge cross-cluster innovation and investment activity. The diverse programme of joint work supports implementation of the UK Industrial Strategy and has included building the UK’s profile in emerging markets and enabling industry-academic collaborations in diagnostics and advanced therapies.

A highlight has been connecting investors and innovators across regional borders through two investor-focused events – one held in Leeds in 2022 and the other in London in March 2023 at The Crick, the UK Life Sciences Investment Summit 2023. The aim was to bring innovation agencies and investors together from across the UK to facilitate knowledge exchange and connectivity, highlighting the strengths of each region while addressing common challenges and opportunities.  

The summit demonstrated the dynamism of clusters in providing a neutral platform for assembling actors from across the ecosystem, and across the UK, to engage in conversations relevant to life sciences investment and innovation.

The event enabled investment opportunities and cluster representatives from the Midlands, North and Northern Ireland to engage with London-based investors, facilitated by UK clusters (MI Health, Health Innovation Research Alliance Northern Ireland (HIRANI), MedCity and NHSA). 

To see the day’s agenda, the speaker and panellist line-up and their bios, view the programme here.

Influential keynote speakers included Dame Kate Bingham, Office for Life Sciences Deputy Director, Alex Mclaughlin, and The Crick’s entrepreneur-in-residence, Barbara Domayne Hayman. There were four panels of key opinion leaders who shared views and recommendations for the UK life sciences sector.  

Panel One discussed investor perspectives in the UK’s economic and policy climate, from areas of opportunity in techbio, synthetic biology, AI-driven modalities and diagnostics to the imperative for government to unlock pension funds for life sciences investment.

Panellist Dr Andy Richards CBE, a Director of Cancer Research Horizons and the Scale-up Institute and Chair of several biotech companies, reflected: “During times of rapid dynamic change, it is key to the health of the ecosystem that thoughtful insights on trends in the environment and particularly the financing environment, are shared widely.

“The UK Life Sciences Investment Summit achieved this with the diversity of attendees and the geographic reach back through their organisations being particularly gratifying. Whilst the financing climate is clearly tough, our lively panel discourse, distilled out practical and positive suggestions that will undoubtably contribute towards sector success and impact.” 

 The second panel tackled how to accelerate innovation within the NHS. Prioritising low complexity, high volume technologies was a common thread. Wrapping services around the technology was identified as just as important as the technology itself to enable adoption.

The scaling of remote monitoring, bolstered by pan-ICS commissioning, was a trend observed by several panelists, along with increasing interest in robotics and automation of processes that are time-consuming. “It was great to hear from innovators and the NHS about how they are scaling solutions in the NHS with global potential,” commented panelist Anna King, Commercial Director, Health Innovation Network. 

 One of the day’s high points was the third panel on Increasing Investment into Underrepresented Founders. Panelists were unified in the message that investing in diverse founders, and in diverse teams, led to bigger business rewards and social impact. Start Codon CEO, Jason Mellad, revealed that more than 50% of the venture builder’s targets had female founders, not by design, but as a consequence of choosing the best science.

Panelists agreed on the importance of leaning into existing initiatives to enhance investment into underrepresented founders, rather than start from scratch. They called on the audience, whether investors or stakeholders from other parts of the ecosystem, to become allies in helping to inform investor behaviour and in actively supporting and enabling more diversity in leadership sector wide. 

Closing the day’s discussions, the fourth panel discussed the role of life science clusters in facilitating UK trade and investment. MedCity CEO, Neelam Patel, noted the unique ability of the cluster organisation to bring ecosystem actors together, in a trusted non-competitive arena, in order to catalyse economic and innovation growth. That neutrality also facilitates connectedness with other clusters across the UK for national innovation and the benefit of the entire sector, including mapping out areas of excellence and avoiding duplication.

“A connected ecosystem keeps us at the forefront of global life sciences,” said fellow panelist, Joann Rhodes, CEO of HIRANI. The connections between the cross-regional clusters demonstrate the unique strengths each can contribute – and highlights the value of core public funding for clusters as credible, honest brokers to spread knowledge, build trust and maintain collaborative relationships.” 

Dr Helen Turner, director of Midlands Innovation, summed up the experience: “Midlands Innovation is delighted to have supported the UK Life Sciences Investment Summit. In the Midlands, health and life sciences is one of our core strengths, and we welcome initiatives that strengthen the research and innovation ecosystem. It’s excellent to have been part of an event that encourages further collaboration to help boost investment in innovation.

“It was fantastic to hear from Alex McLaughlin and Dame Kate Bingham DBE and, amongst the excellent panel discussions, we were particularly impressed by the ‘Investment in Underrepresented Founders’ session.

“By building stronger relationships within the health and life science investment infrastructure across the UK, this nationally important event delivered an exciting demonstration of the power of effectively networked clusters. We look forward to continuing to work with the regional life science clusters to showcase these opportunities as they progress and influence future investment prospects for the region.”

To see highlights of the day’s event including commentary from speakers and panellists, watch the video of the UK Life Sciences Innovation Summit: