Navigating Choppy Water

Government budget cuts are leaving a cloud of uncertainty over all sectors. The Welsh life science industry, however, need not panic just yet – the Welsh Assembly has identified us as a priority sector, one that will stay strong in the face of adversity. MediWales, as the sector’s forum, is determined to see through these potentially hard times, keeping close all stakeholders that make this sector so successful.

A consequence of new governing – and emerging from a global recession – the Welsh Assembly Government is restructuring. This move has prompted a total rethink on the way economic development and business support happens in Wales. In July 2010, the Assembly published the ‘Economic Renewal: a new direction’. This strategic plan identifies the life science sector as one of six major economic drivers worthy of investment.

This new strategy makes the shift from regionally organised business support, to a sector-by-sector approach, whereby teams of experts have one priority focus each, rather than being spread thinly among several sectors. Giving MediWales’s perspective, we believe the economic renewal plan is by and large good news. However, the devil’s in the detail and how these changes will be delivered is yet to be seen. What we do know is that there’s a wealth of activity supporting Welsh life science that needs to be recognised and continued into this new political and financial era. During these frugal times, industry stakeholders will also need to invest in themselves, so that the life science industry remains an attractive investment prospect when premium funding opportunities return.

When considering the affects this new era will have on our members, MediWales identified six priority focuses of its own to develop: clinical access and engagement; maintaining a critical networking role; developing promotional opportunities for members; communicating the needs and value of the sector; improving the forum’s communication and reach; and becoming the definitive source of market intelligence for the sector.   

Building upon last year’s progress, MediWales is supporting industry to access clinical expertise. Over the coming year, the forum will publish an online route map for industry, identifying the specific service providers and centres of expertise to engage with. This correlates with MediWales’s wider objective: to develop relationships with health providers – people who are delivering the medicine and care – to encourage collaboration between these experts and our industry members.  

One such relationship that MediWales has developed over the past year is with the National Institute for Social Care and Health Research (NISCHR). NISCHR is the Welsh Assembly Government department responsible for policy and strategy of health and social care research and development. Recently, NISCHR has initiated discussions with MediWales to ensure that the requirements and capabilities of the medical technology industry are taken into account within the R&D strategy. 

The MediWales 2009 Innovation Awards dinner was an example of our collaboration with NISCHR, resulting in two new awards categories: ‘Innovation within the NHS’ and ‘NHS collaboration with Industry’. This event creates as opportunity for new technologies and developments within the NHS and Welsh companies to be recognised and rewarded. The ceremony was a great success that brought together key clinicians, industry members and academics in Wales. Building on this success, MediWales is again collaborating with NISCHR for the MediWales Innovation Awards 2010.

In order for the life science sector to thrive, MediWales understands that academics, businesses and clinicians (ABC) need to work together. Our long term goal is to represent, communicate and network with, and for, these different groups, to enable them to collaborate and build invaluable relationships.   

Continuing with the ABC model, MediWales’s quarterly magazine – the MediWales Review – is another platform whereby these groups can attract each other. Using The Review as a promotional vehicle, stakeholders can communicate their services, either through a written article or an advertisement. Our aim is to increasingly become more health focused in order to widen our audience to clinical groups. 

In line with our desire to reach broader audiences, MediWales’s national publication, the Medilink UK Review, has been re launched this summer as the UK Lifescience Industry magazine. Published on behalf of the UK’s Medilink organisations, the magazine has evolved to cover more scientific fields and create a clearer brand and purpose. Each edition of the magazine has a readership of more than 10,000, both through print and online viewing.   

In a tech-savvy world, where social networking has evolved into a mass communications tool for businesses, it is important to keep up. In light of this, MediWales is giving its website a complete face lift. will shortly be re launched, becoming a resource that our members use and value day to day. The site will be updated daily, giving our users Welsh, national and global news about the life science sector. The aspiration is for the MediWales website to become a ‘favourite’ in our members’ regularly used links, where with just a click of their mouse, funding opportunities, news, and advancements in the sector are immediately visible. 

MediWales is also expanding its position within the sector and diversifying the services it offers. The forum, drawing on its eclectic mix of expert directors, extensive knowledge, and excellent working relationships with key life science stakeholders, is feasibly one of the main sources of sector intelligence in Wales. To this end, MediWales will be updating the Welsh Assembly Government, department of technology and innovation’s 2009 bioscience sector mapping figures, which include information on all the companies and NHS and academic groups that operate within the sector. In times where resources are scarce, and future funding is uncertain, it is more important than ever for industry to have current data to support funding applications.

Complementing this quantitative resource, the forum is in the midst of forming a life science advisory group. This medley of academic, clinical and industrial experts will advise the wider Welsh life science sector on how to navigate successfully through these inauspicious times. This group will also join MediWales in providing a collective voice for the needs of industry members, from the start-up, to the SME, to the large pharma corporations.

So why is the life sector worth investing in? Starting with MediWales, our membership has consecutively grown in the past eight years. We currently have 130 members, showing that companies are surviving the recession. Taking a more bird’s eye view, this sector is worth £1.3bn to the Welsh economy, employs over 15,000 people, and has seen 19% growth over the past three years.   

In the UK markets, life science has small and big players. Most lucrative is the pharmaceutical industry that turns over more than £16bn per annum, and employs nearly 70,000 people. Close behind is the medical technology sector, where many of its sub sectors in Britain are leading the way globally, such as wound care, in-vitro diagnostics, and single-use technology.

Globally, the med tech industry is set to grow by 10% per annum in the next 5-6 years.  The drivers behind this are strong: people are ageing, putting pressure on the human body to keep going that much longer. Rates of cancer, dementia, and chronic care come hand in hand with this phenomenon, giving the broader life science industry much more food for thought.  

As Wales continues to utilise this mix of people, skills and resources, it can create a fiercer position in global markets, project a well–groomed picture of Wales as a country worthy of investment, ensure we navigate assertively to access appropriate finance, and most of all, demand and retain the strong government support that we’ve had to date – and deservedly so.