Building network in the UK

- One of our key takeaways from our different discussions across the pond is the importance of understanding the context and priorities of the market before making your efforts on the ground.
Great discussions with the team in Leeds. From left_: Iris Öhrn (Business region Gothenburg), Nanna Broch Mortensen (Danish Life Science Cluster), Neil Toner (Yorkshire & Humber AHSN), Therese Oppegaard (NSCC), Barry Singleton (Nexus Leeds), Anna Riby (Swecare), Tim East (Yorkshire & Humber AHSN), Ferdinand Rex (Yorkshire & Humber AHSN)

Building network in the UK

At the end of June, the Nordic partners in the NHS Propel Nordic Bootcamp project visited the UK for a 3-day intensive trip. Our main goal was to expand our network with relevant contacts that might support Nordic companies looking to enter the UK.

We spent a day each in Manchester, Leeds and London, where we met with academic health science networks, regional investment agencies and innovation partners. Through this meeting we have gained a much better understanding of the NHS and how innovation can be brought into the system Although the most common initial answers to our many detailed questions were “it’s complicated”, which is not necessarily surprising, we also see the great opportunities for Nordic healthtech providers in the UK market when they find their route in.

The Academic Health Science Networks Network is the innovation arm of NHS England and was established in 2013 to spread innovation at pace and scale – improving health, driving costs down and generating economic growth to the respective regions. There are 15 AHSNs, partnering with regional hospitals, clinics and primary care, other innovation actors and have lots of contacts in their respective regions for supporting ideation, deployment of innovation, and all aspects of setting up a company locally. They are a good place to start and can support innovative solutions that tackle prioritized areas (see fact box below).

Valuable services to Nordic companies

In Manchester we met with two of the AHSNs; Innovation Agency for the North West Coast and Health Innovation Manchester for the Greater Manchester Area. Midas, the Manchester inward investment agency also joined the meeting. We learnt how these organisations work to promote both healthcare, innovation and economic growth, and who their partners are. They can offer business insights, strategic partnerships with the NHS and others, support on innovation and deployment – if your solution fits unmet needs and (regional or national) NHS priorities. In Manchester, regional priorities or focus areas include healthy ageing, advanced therapies and digital health.

Unmet needs and priorities were topics we heard also in Leeds. We met with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority who assists international companies setting up business in the region. At Innovation Popup we learned how Leeds teaching hospital work with innovation – coming from within their own trust or from external providers. And we met with our good friends at York and Humber Academic Health Science Network (YHAHSN), that run the UK – Nordic Propel Bootcamp.

Some focus areas in York and Humber include digital health, medtech, tissue regeneration and wound care, diagnostics, with FemTech coming up. Digital health including AI is one focus, thanks to research and capabilities in the region’s universities. The Combined Authority gave us several successful examples of companies that have located here, both national and international. One interesting initiative is the setting up of a 100-bed hospital for clinical trials. Leeds can also boast one of the largest NHS Trusts in the UK, with construction of a new hospital for adults and children just about to start in the middle of the city.

One of the Nexus innovators demonstrating a new solution for colonoscopy

At YHAHSN we discussed the next round of our joint UK - Nordic Propel Bootcamp, coming up at the end of January 24. The application will be open in September 1, and successful applicants being notified in November. The bootcamp itself will take place January 23-February 2, 2024. Masterclasses will be given by knowledgeable experts on aspects of market entry, such as the NHS system, legal, finance & funding. This part of the program will take place at Nexus, a hub and community for innovators and entrepreneurs, located right in the nexus of University of Leeds and Leeds General Imfirmary. The program will also include a half-day pitching session with a variety of relevant stakeholders and a visit to Innovation Popup of Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust. If you’re ready for the UK market, you will really get a head start by joining the bootcamp!


Take a look at our experiences from the 1. Nordic Propel Bootcamp below:


Main takeaways from our UK tour

Our last day was spent in London, where we met with ULC Partners - one of three AHSNs in the greater London area covering two of the five Integrated Care Systems (ICS) in the region. London is of course an important part of the UK life science and healthcare ecosystem – but competition (and costs) is also greater here. If you do want to start in London, UCLP can offer a lot of support – if you have an innovative product that is ready for the market. The first step is to fill in their Company engagement form Company engagement form - UCLPartners in full, and if your solution is interesting enough, they’ll set up a meeting. The organization run several programs, like the NHS Innovation Accelerator, and can help direct you on the NHS path to adoption and scale.

One of our key takeaways from our different discussions across the pond is the importance of understanding the context and priorities of the market before making your efforts on the ground. You must be prepared to back your claims and show evidence of cost/benefit that the brits can relate to. It would probably be difficult for you to sell your product or service in London if your evidence base comes from a rural context in Norway… your value proposition has to fit the context of where you are selling. And you must understand the health economic consequence and effect of your solution in a British context. Because health economy will triumph any other sales argument. Understanding health economies, building a relevant evidence base and find the right value proposition that will sell in the UK market are all things that the AHSN’s can assist you with. Although many services will require an investment, we know that not having the right go-to-market strategy also comes with a prize. So, it might be a good investment to consider.

In summary, we learnt that there is a lot of support offered in the UK/NHS system. There are also opportunities for funding, also some for companies established outside the UK. But the system is complicated, and you will do better if you find the right front door.

From the left: Anna Riby (Swecare), Therese Oppegaard (NSCC), Nanna Broch Mortensen (DLSC), Iris Öhrn (BRG)

NHS Prioritized areas

  • Digital transformation, e.g. digital products and the digitisation of care pathways
  • Diversity, inclusion, and equality
  • Health inequalities, contributing to a fairer health system
  • Environmental sustainability, accelerating the transition to a Net Zero health service
  • Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) and co-production
  • Patient safety
  • Workforce by building capacity and capability

When it comes to clinical areas, there are NHS programmes for

  • Ageing and care homes: to improve response and safety of the older population, and reduce the pressure on care homes and hospitals.
  • Cardiovascular disease: to enable early detection, treatment and prevention
  • Maternal and neonatal: to reduce unwarranted variation in maternity and neonatal settings
  • Mental health and neurodiversity: to improve early prevention, detection, intervention, diagnosis and treatment, reduce wait times
  • Medicines: to improve safety and systems surrounding medicines, reduce risks of overprescription
  • Respiratory: to improve respiratory pathways, diagnosis and care, asthma is a priority
  • Wound care: to improve healing rates, evidence-based wound care, care pathways and better data

Relevant links:

This trip was supported by Nordic Innovation through the Life Science and Health Tech export initiative towards the UK involving ecosystems and cluster organizations project.