Dr Andrew Rose
Dr Andrew Rose
Richard Bell

Interview: Liverpool LEP’s Dr Andrew Rose on supporting City Region healthcare innovators

Given the level of strain the NHS finds itself under today, there’s perhaps never been a more crucial time for innovative UK businesses to step up and help improve the healthcare system.

I recently caught up with Dr Andrew Rose, life science and health sector manager at the Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, to discuss the LEP’s £3.14m Health Innovation Exchange programme.

The European Regional Development Fund-backed scheme was set up at the end of 2016, but the LEP is now embarking on a fresh drive to help the City Region’s business community develop and deploy innovative products and services for healthcare.

The ultimate aim of the programme is to establish Liverpool and the surrounding areas as a centre of excellence for health and care innovation. I asked Dr Rose how close he believes the City Region is to achieving that status.

We need to […] encourage local businesses to step up and provide more innovations for healthcare

He said: “We already have some of the best hospitals and healthcare in the country. We have places like Alder Hey, Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital and Clatterbridge, among other centres, where there are world-leading experts doing some phenomenal work.

“What we need to do is encourage local businesses to step up and provide more innovations for healthcare.

“The Health Innovation Exchange makes links between those SMEs, hospitals and academia to support innovation, help those businesses grow and provide health benefits for the public.”

I asked Dr Rose about the obstacles SMEs face when bringing new health-focused products to market, and the current state of the support landscape.

We can guide SMEs towards sources of both governmental and private funding

He explained: “I think the NHS is such a large organisation that it can be very daunting for companies. Through this programme, we’re able to help businesses get to the right partners and find the right types of financial support to develop their products and services.

“There’s a lot of support out there now. We have the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund coming through, and more funding to be made available through the likes of Innovate UK. Another is the Small Business Research Initiative.

“Through our programme, we can guide SMEs towards sources of both governmental and private funding. We can link them to venture capital firms and others active in the region.”

Next, I asked about the businesses supported through the Health Innovation Exchange to date.

Dr Rose said a number have already benefited from the programme. “A really good example,” he continued, “is the SME called Damibu.”

The Baltic Triangle-based software developer is the brains behind an app called CATCH, an acronym for Common Approach to Children’s Health. It provides parents and carers with regularly updated information from NHS Choices, with the aim of helping them understand when children need medical treatment and when self-care might be more appropriate.

We already have some of the best hospitals and healthcare in the country

Speaking further, Dr Rose said: “Damibu worked really closely with the Innovation Agency, one of the Health Innovation Exchange’s seven partners, which helped spread uptake of the app across Liverpool and the wider North West.”

A trial of the app in Greater Manchester demonstrated its ability to reduce demand on NHS services.

Will Brexit have an impact on the programme, since it’s backed by the ERDF?

“Funding for the Health Innovation Exchange is already secured, so Brexit will make no difference to the programme,” Dr Rose said.

“In the future though, we expect funding for these types of programmes to transition to new schemes – although we don’t have any details as yet.”

With healthcare placed at the forefront of the Government’s Industrial Strategy, as revealed at the end of last year with the new life sciences sector deal, it really is crucial now for Liverpool City Region SMEs to take advantage of the support available and bring their innovative ideas to fruition.

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