The triple helix of academia, industry and the NHS is often cited as the formula for the success of a flourishing life sciences sector.
By catalysing connectivity across these sectors and services we can ensure we have the required skills and infrastructure within the sector to drive innovation and deliver the much needed health advancements to society.
As part of the UK Advanced Therapies Network Roadshow, the Northern Advanced Therapies and Scotland Advanced Therapies Networks aimed to do exactly that through a satellite event held at the European Society of Gene and Cell Therapy annual congress in Edinburgh on October 10th. This satellite event was co-hosted by the Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA) and the Scottish Universities Life Sciences Alliance (SULSA), supported by MedCity and the Health Innovation Research Alliance Northern Ireland (HIRANI).
In a high energy networking meeting, academics showcased exciting research projects open to collaboration and investment from the North of England and Scotland and the attendees also heard from investors who specialise in the Advanced Therapies space. The meeting had a great atmosphere and you could see the genuine interest from all there to connect and engage.
Investors play a crucial role at all levels of nurturing the research developed in our universities into the life science companies of the future. Without them many fantastic concepts would not see the light of day as businesses. It was encouraging to hear how diverse the portfolios of many of these funds are, with a venture capitalist to fit all types of project from pre-seed to seed funding all the way through to stage A and B. Unlike other economies around the world the funding profile appears to be less aggressive and more cultivating in the UK, in particular in the North of the UK and Northern Ireland, investing in people as well as concepts is just as important. It was refreshing to hear how investors are looking for fits with their own profiles and are not playing a numbers game of serial investing with a high expected attrition. The VCs are less impressed with a slick, glossy presentation and more interested in the substance, which includes a researcher who not only understands their own project, warts and all, but also the competition in the area. Every single forum member was in agreement that they wanted to know the weak spots and potential hurdles for any future collaboration. One final bit of advice that resonated at the forum was understand your investor. Sharing a generic slide deck can be spotted easily and because of the investing in personalities culture in the UK all of the VCs wanted to feel they had been approached because the academic felt they could add real value.
One of the most reassuring aspects that came from the Q&A was that there is a lot of interest in what lies outside the London, Oxford, Cambridge Golden Triangle and with that a keenness for support in how to navigate the northern regions and to shine a light on exceptional and translatable research and ideas. Life Science Cluster Support Organisations like SULSA, the NHSA and HIRANI can play a vital role in delivering this, representing a large number of universities and being well connected across the triple helix. We came away from this event feeling inspired to capitalise on the synergies across our alliances and achieve more through collaborative working for the UK Advanced Therapies Sector.
Author Nathan Barnett, Skills Manager for SULSA and the Advanced Therapies Skills Training Network (ATSTN) Scotland.
The UK Advanced Therapies Network is funded by Research England’s Connecting Capability Fund and is a collaboration between:
King’s College London, University College London, Imperial College London, Queen Mary University of London, University of Bristol, The University of Manchester, The University of Sheffield, Newcastle University, University of Birmingham, The University of Edinburgh, University of Glasgow, Queen’s University Belfast, Ulster University. MedCity, Northern Health Science Alliance SULSA, Scottish Enterprises, Health Innovation Research Alliance Northern Ireland.
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