An Engine for Growth

The life sciences sector has been a growing and increasingly important part of the UK economy,[1] both as a marketplace and as a centre for product development and manufacturing. A recent report from Deloitte estimated that around 10% of global pharmaceutical research and development takes place in UK laboratories.[2] The NIHR across its wide infrastructure is ideally positioned at the cutting edge of development in healthcare to work in partnership with industry. As ever, at a strategic level this is easy to agree but how do we actually go about this? At an organisational level as a CLAHRC we need to look closely at what we do, and how we do it. We have done this over the last 12 months, engaging with a wide variety of our stakeholders and as a result formulated an industry engagement strategy and plan.

The initial implication is for what we do. There is a valid concern held at national level that we should be able to demonstrate efficiency and value for money by being able to offer assurance that we are not replicating existing services or functions. This is no more evident than in relation to industry engagement as there are multiple NHS and public sector bodies involved in providing an interface with small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), as well as with multinationals. At CLAHRC WM we work in partnership with the West Midlands Academic Health Science Network, recognising their strengths in engaging with industry and allowing them to act as the first point of contact, for instance through their Meridian online innovation platform. In CLAHRC WM we focus our relatively limited resources on the areas most likely to deliver significant benefit. For this reason we do not typically work with industrialists on individual products. Rather, we consider interventions that are driven by technology and ask how the service can change to meet the need – the West Midlands went from the lowest to highest uptake of home haemodialysis, for example.[3] In recent News Blogs we considered precision medicine, and intra-cerebral embolectomy for thrombotic stroke. The CLAHRC WM Director has also produced a suite of supply-side health economic tools for use by industry.[4]

The CLAHRC WM has also significantly changed the way it approaches industry in the last 12 months. Firstly there is the Head of Programmes (engagement) post with specific remit to focus on NHS, AHSN and industry engagement and act as a single point of contact. Secondly, this post is part-based within the Institute for Translational Medicine run by Birmingham Health Partners. This unique development brings together organisations working on industry engagement that otherwise would have been remote from each other. This not only increases the interactions between these groups, but also helps to reduce the risk of duplication of services or functions.

The NIHR at 10 campaign has been a useful stimulus to bring all of the elements of the NIHR infrastructure together to look at industry engagement across the board. Whilst within CLAHRCs we are more concerned with service delivery, other parts of the NIHR infrastructure such as the Health Technology Assessment programme, and the Surgical Reconstruction and Microbiology Research Centre work closely with device and drug manufacturers. One of the great strengths from being part of the NIHR is that we can always learn from the other elements of the organisation which are more expert in these areas and inform our future approaches.

— Paul Bird, CLAHRC WM Head of Programme Delivery (Engagement)


  1. HM Government. Life Science Competitiveness Indicators. BIS/15/249. 2015
  2. Deloitte. 2015 Life Sciences Outlook. 2015
  3. Combes G, Allen K, Sein K, Girling A, Lilford R. Taking hospital treatments home: a mixed methods case study looking at the barriers and success factors for home dialysis treatment and the influence of a target on uptake rates. Implement Sci. 2015; 10: 148.
  4. Girling A, Lilford R, Cole A, Young T. Headroom Approach to Device Development: Current and Future Directions. Int J Technol Assess Health Care. 2015; 31(5): 331-8.

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