New reports published by CPI say the UK urgently needs to deliver a medtech industrial strategy to avoid falling behind in the growing healthtech sector in the UK.
The reports warn that unless the Government does not step in to support the industry, the UK could be losing out on highly skilled jobs and billions of pounds in revenue.
In 2021, the UK healthtech sector consisted of 4,353 businesses with a £30 billion turnover employing over 145,600 people across 4,802 UK sites, according to data from the Office for Life Sciences.
UK healthtech abroad
‘Challenges and Opportunities for UK HealthTech Manufacturing Scale Up’ highlights that many companies have, or are considering, moving overseas to benefit from more competitive pricing and more flexible manufacturing processes.
Over 90% of UK-based medical technology companies are SMEs, making a complex manufacturing and regulatory landscape challenging. As one respondent highlights in the report: “It was my big goal to make [the product] in the UK. I tried to do it two years ago but failed because I didn’t have the support with bringing all the factories together. A lot of the companies were unresponsive because I was so small scale.”
A further case study highlighted in East Asia companies will get support to join up supply chains to provide a “product in a box”, compared with the UK where companies have to build up their own supply chain. The costs of tooling in East Asia are also up to 4-5 times cheaper and with much shorter lead times.
Why innovation is needed
Published against a backdrop of ever-increasing waiting lists, with over 7 million people currently waiting for care according to NHS England, medical technologies provide solutions to diagnosis and treatment which could help solve some of the biggest health challenges.
The reports highlight that UK medical technology businesses want to keep their products in the UK, governments overseas provide more support to the sector, allowing for manufacturers in other countries to provide services at much more competitive rates.
Rahul Kapoor, healthtech director at CPI, said: “We urgently need a healthtech industrial growth strategy. The barriers identified in these reports must be lifted, to allow UK to tap into the full growth potential. Healthtech is a significant contributor to the UK economy with an annual turnover of nearly £30 billion and allows patients to live healthier and longer lives.
“Government support to accelerate UK healthtech ecosystem can drive industrial growth and help accelerate UK’s life sciences growth ambitions on our shores.”
Rapid Fluidics, based in Newcastle-upon Tyne, uses 3D printing to create medtech protypes. CEO Paul Marshall provides an insight into the challenges faced by companies in the health-tech space.
Paul Marshall, CEO of Rapid Fluidics, said: “There are so many possibilities in the UK for healthtech, we have a wealth of experience in R&D and innovation, but it falls down at the point of scaling up and getting these products to the people that need them most. That’s what we want to do as a company, but faced with so many regulatory and manufacturing challenges makes that extremely difficult. It can take a number of years before people in the UK get access to our technology. By keeping healthtech products in the UK, it’s not just good for business and the economy, we can tackle the health problems we face too.”
A second report – An Action Plan: Driving Growth of the UK Digital Health Industry – maps the changes needed for the UK to maximise its global potential in the digital health market. As the largest subsector within healthtech, digital health consists of products that collect, process or use data within a healthcare setting, including electronic patient records, image analysis tools and connected wearable devices. This report says it is being hampered in the UK by capacity issues and slow pace. “Action is needed now to maintain our leadership position and maximise growth,” the report states.
Challenges and Opportunities for UK HealthTech Manufacturing Scale Up, led by CPI in collaboration with ABHI and funding from Innovate UK — is based on interviews, surveys, and workshops with about 100 UK companies within the sector. An Action Plan: Driving Growth of the UK Digital Health Industry, written in conjunction with Cambridge Design Partnership and Innovate UK, reflects insights from over 50 stakeholders across the digital health ecosystem.