The 2023 Med-Tech Innovation Expo came back in force to Birmingham’s NEC in June. Matthew D’Arcy reports from the conference and exhibition floor on key market developments.
UK medtech has renewed impetus in 2023. The government has launched its very first dedicated strategy for the sector, with significant emphasis on supporting a “thriving” industry, and in securing access to a reliable supply chain for the NHS.
So, it might come as little surprise that the Med-Tech Innovation Expo returned bigger than ever in June . For those who missed the event, or who might have been busy on an exhibition stand, here are eight things that emerged:
Whitehall departments ready and eager to engage medtech companies
With the strategy firmly on the conference agenda, senior representatives from several government departments made themselves very visible. There were leaders from the Office for Life Sciences, the Department for Health and Social Care, and the Department for Business and Trade.
Organisations including Innovate UK, SBRI Healthcare, and the National Institute for Health and Care Research also took a central place on the exhibition floor, eager to seek out new companies with innovative offers.
Ensuring the “health and wealth of the nation” was one of the central message delegates heard from speakers, who actively encouraged medtech companies to engage in evolving policy to improve adoption, regulatory compliance, and commercial success for UK businesses.
UK medtech exports worth billions and growing
Mark Oakes, head of life sciences for exports at the Department for Business and Trade was keen to emphasise reasons for optimism among UK medtech companies.
“The global market for medtech is growing fast following the pandemic,” he told delegates – adding that it is projected to reach $644 billion by 2026.
Oakes, relatively new in-post, was also keen to see UK companies seizing a significant slice of that global opportunity, with exports already believed to be in the region of £6.4 billion.
UK medtech companies in the thousands
The “thriving” sector that the government is eager to support is by no means limited to large companies. SMEs, numbering in the thousands, make up most of the industry.
Mark Oakes insisted they have a “global reputation for innovation” and encouraged them to reach out and engage with efforts to boost commercial opportunities in the UK and overseas.
Regulators want to ‘ease the route to market’
An emphasis on easing the route to market was an important theme of the conference. Speakers reflected on government announcements about initiatives to speed up the introduction of urgently needed devices.
“We have been engaging with NICE, the MHRA, and the NHS for the creation of the recently announced medtech pathway”, said Heather Hobson head of regulation, access, innovation and growth, at the Office for Life Sciences.
“This will formally be launched in the summer. It will include an Innovative Devices Access Pathway. It aims to create a framework for rapid regulatory approvals for highly innovative products that meet unmet NHS need.” Suppliers were urged to get in touch with MHRA and NICE to pre-register for further information.
“This is a huge opportunity to create a future regulatory environment to support industry, medical technology, and innovation,” added David Lawson, director for medical technology at the Department for Health and Social Care.
Securing supply for the NHS
Moving on to the supply chain security aspect of the government’s strategy, Heather Hobson said: “We need to ensure that we have new products coming through to help us combat the big issues [in health].”David Lawson added that another priority is to ensure “resilience” in the supply chain. “The vulnerability of our supply chains has become an ongoing issue. Even post-Covid, a challenge around shortages impacts on patient care and safety. So, ensuring resilience of our supply chain is a key component of our medtech strategy.”
Planning for the sector: Medtech implementation plan due soon
More clarification also emerged on the next iteration of the government’s strategy. An implementation plan, involving a multi-agency approach, is due to be published as soon as July.
Unlocking NHS access a challenge that needs to be addressed
Despite supply challenges, the NHS remains a challenging environment to sell into, the conference heard. One speaker, who has worked in NHS finance roles for 40 years, insisted the NHS had ‘never overspent’ in its history which, he added: “Affect[s] the level at which we can adopt innovation.”
Suppliers have new opportunity to enhance visibility
However, with more than 500,000 medical devices in regular use in the NHS, compared to 15,000 medicines, there is a need to “adopt at-scale the most relevant medical technologies,” David Lawson insisted.
He argued there is a “barrier around visibility” of medtech products that needs to be overcome, building on the growing evidence base for the benefits of adopting innovation.