ABHI Membership

ABHI at 30 Guest Blogs. Reworking the Deal Between the Seller and User

If you sit in an industry seat in health technology there is often the feeling that ideas, development, investment and certification are hard enough to put together. But when you approach the NHS in the UK to get your product sold it feels twice as hard.

If you sit in an NHS seat as a busy clinician in a leading health service your eyes may sometimes glaze over when contacted by a HealthTech firm, however prestigious. It will be another attempt to interest you in a device which may look marginally better than the one you currently use but with no understanding of the environment you would be using it in, the staff who would be using it alongside you, or what effect it might have on the clinical pathway. And all this is before whether anything new can be afforded by today’s NHS.

So, if the seller and the user usually start in these different places it is good that leading ABHI members and leading health and science groupings are reworking the deal. The Cambridge Biomedical Campus is now host to a range of industry partners. These include HealthTech giants such as Philips and GE, working with Cambridge University Hospitals and the Royal Papworth Hospital, with others likely to follow in the next few years. The firms are committing resources – equipment, software and people – to a development partnership with the clinicians and academics very directly.

They are also buying clinician time, so they get the attention they need. And the Cambridge partners are together working on access to data – anonymised and pseudonymised; clinical imaging, pathology – so that service improvement, academic rigour and commercial development can operate in the same space without prejudice.

For ABHI members this is the sort of deal which will allow them to reinvent a time-consuming and expensive business model. Why run a complex and expensive R&D workforce if you can defray these costs and increase scientific rigour by drawing on centres of excellence in science – clinical, engineering and physical? This is very easily achieved in Cambridge where the science is either co-located or close by. Industry also needs high performing clinical services to develop products which add value to pathways and the daily lives of patients and clinicians. In other words, firms move from developing products to devising solutions.

ABHI has worked in the background, encouraging members to do their due diligence to identify the partners they need – Cambridge, Leeds, Manchester. Working through a Memorandum of Understanding with ABHI has given a greater sharpness, beyond a sense of one-off deals. The leadership of ABHI uses its off-stage diplomatic skills to pull people together, identify areas of convergence with health and science partners on the Campus, and to keep the channels open for further development.

This leads from the local to the national and international. We recently, along with Manchester and Oxford, signed a “Biobridge” partnership agreement with the outstanding biomedical campus in Houston, Texas. That work started from an ABHI linkage of Cambridge to Houston. There will be more of these to come. ABHI’s work with its members to land them in the US is a big part of that.

Malcolm Lowe-Lauri, Executive Director, Cambridge University Health Partners (CUHP)