Medilink WM is the industry association for life sciences and medical technology in the West Midlands.
Our organisation was created 15 years ago to provide information and knowledge exchange for the emerging medical and healthcare cluster in the West Midlands,” says Richard Stone, chief executive of Medlink WM. “Our mission was then, and is still, to maintain an active network through which med-tech industry can be linked to the regional infrastructure; including businesses, universities, healthcare, clinicians, and other support organisations with expertise in the med-tech and healthcare sectors.
“At its simplest, we exist to help industry raise its profile and promote the region’s products and services. We use various channels to encourage and facilitate information flow between members and the medical sector regionally, nationally and globally.
“We also deliver specialist skills training through master-classes, and provide a promotional platform to industry across this region through digital means; via social media, newsletters and e-bulletins. The aim of all this activity is to help support the regional economy by assisting companies to establish, develop, innovate and grow”.
Stone says his organisation has a strategic plan that underpins its operations, and helps him and his colleagues achieve their challenging targets.
“We are passionate believers in knowledge exchange, so we bring together research and technical expertise to increase the rate and level of innovation, and offer support to help companies become more innovative, to drive improved productivity and increase their competitiveness,” he says. “We also focus constantly on creating the right environment for innovation, by providing links to ensure an integrated network of facilities, organisations and individuals exists to turn innovations into economic growth.
“Our final core strategy is to foster enabling and emerging technologies, utilising research and industry strengths to identify and prioritise investments related to the future prosperity of the region to maximise the benefits and outcomes.”
Medilink WM is a membership-based body, with a network of more than 4,000 contacts in more than 1,000 organisations. It represents all aspects of the sector, including private and public institutions; from multi nationals to potential high-value start-ups, as well as the NHS and universities.
“We engage with all facets of the NHS, local and national government, and their various representative bodies, clinical regulators, and other key stakeholders across the region,” says Stone. “We provide specialist sector knowledge, and dedicated support to businesses, to help boost the region’s economic output from life sciences by overcoming barriers to growth.
“We also provide expert assistance to companies engaging with Meridian, WMAHSN’s online health innovation exchange, designed to support the West Midlands innovation ecosystem and the spread of good practice across the region.”
Meridian is a pioneering and interactive platform for anyone to share their innovations and ideas, build groups and networks, and make contact with people whose innovations could change healthcare delivery in the West Midlands.
“We assist with innovation submissions to Meridian, and help develop key relationships with appropriate clinical groups and stakeholders, to assist the right innovations to evolve and move forward with the NHS”, says Stone. “Also – working closely with MidTECH, the West Midlands NHS technology transfer office – we help identify opportunities to collaborate with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), supporting the commercialisation of NHS intellectual property, resulting in licensing and spin-out opportunities for industry that will generate wealth and employment.”
Medilink WM is a founding member of Medilink UK, which supports more than 3,000 companies, and Medilink Midlands – a strategic alliance of Medilinks across the region. Medilink also provides the industry gateway for the West Midlands Academic Health Science Network’s (WMAHSN) innovation and adoption service.
“Our team works alongside partners and stakeholders inside and outside the NHS, to accelerate innovation, the adoption of best practice and to identify gaps in current provision,” says Stone. “For companies that have an innovative product or service that has significant potential to benefit both patients and the health service, the gateway will look to facilitate their needs.
“Effectively, we provide a ‘front door’ to the NHS for industry, acting as a single point of entry for all med-tech companies and life science businesses who wish to engage with the WMAHSN.”
The organisation’s effectiveness has brought glowing tributes from its members.
“Since joining I have found their short courses and services a valuable resource,” says Bob Roopra, of Birmingham-based Roopra Medtech Consulting.
His consultancy provides proof of concept and commercialisation guidance for disruptive medical technologies, emerging in the diagnostic healthcare space. “Medilink’s drive and commitment to work with and connect businesses sets them head and shoulders apart from anyone else. Joining this organisation was the best business decision I made,” says Roopra.
“Being a member offers great networking opportunities and access to knowledge and expertise that one would not ordinarily have”, says Harrison Law, an account executive at the Stourbridge-based IHN Insurance Brokers. “They have given us guidance and an appropriate platform on which to showcase our expertise in such a varied and complex sector.”
The biggest event in Medilink’s calendar, its annual Medical and Healthcare Business Awards, brings together representatives, clinicians, researchers, and academics to celebrate the region’s most innovative and successful companies across the medical and healthcare technology sector.
The prize ceremony takes place each January, celebrating achievements across six categories: start-up, innovation, export achievement, partnership with the NHS, supply chain, and outstanding achievement. Winners then represent the region on the national stage at the Medilink UK Awards in April at the Medtech Innovation Expo, the UK and Ireland’s leading showcase for medical design and manufacturing technology.
“These awards offer a great opportunity for our members to put their company’s product or service in the spotlight,” says Stone. “They generate great exposure for the region’s medical and healthcare industry and provide a platform for our members to shout about their achievements and success stories.
“We work with life science companies daily, helping them achieve their goals and requirements, from support with research and development (R&D) activities, through to innovation support or help with NHS adoption goals.
“Through this continual interaction, we know the breadth and the depth of the skills and knowledge of the life science businesses in the region, and the passion they have to succeed in whatever they are doing.
“And in the current climate of political, economic and commercial doom and gloom, the Medilink WM awards give us a very welcome opportunity to showcase and celebrate good news, the positivity inherent in our regional businesses, and to shout about their many success stories.”