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UK MedTech sector ‘on course to be world’s second biggest behind America’

UK MedTech sector ‘on course to be world’s second biggest behind America’ 


The UK is on course to become the world’s biggest innovator in medical technology outside of the United States, according to a leading sector service provider.

Ivor Campbell, chief executive of Stirlingshire-based MedTech recruiter Snedden Campbell, said a rise in investment in the sector since the Covid pandemic has put it on a path to unprecedented growth.

Collaboration between industry and leading UK universities in the so-called Golden Triangle or London, Oxford, and Cambridge, has created a dynamic focus for creativity which could see the UK outstrip Germany and Japan as the world’s second biggest hub for MedTech development.

The UK medical equipment market is currently worth around $30billion-a-year, compared with £31.7billion in Japan and $35.8billion in Germany. All are dwarfed by the US sector, which generated $176.7bn in 2020.

While most of the focus in recent years has been on the growth of UK Biopharma – which has a turnover of £40.7bn – core MedTech is now primed to challenge it as the country’s leading life science sector, according to Campbell.

He said: “The biggest driver of growth is undoubtedly the region between Oxford and Cambridge, which contributes £111bn in gross value added to the economy every year.

“According to a recent report by the local enterprise partnership, that could reach up to £274bn-a-year, with the support of an integrated housebuilding and transport programme.”

Campbell, whose Stirlingshire-based company recruits for the world’s MedTech firms, said shortlists for senior executive positions globally are now dominated by British-based applicants.

The growth in flexible and remote working, following the pandemic, has made geographical location of staff less relevant than in the past.

“Ten years ago, you would expect a UK shortlist for senior MedTech executive positions to have up to 30% non-UK based candidates. Now it’s invariably 100% UK-based,” he said.

“With a worldwide remit – and we’re looking for a CEO at the moment – we can produce a decent selection of candidates from people who are entirely in the UK. Not necessarily Brits, but certainly people who are resident in the UK. “

According to Campbell, the Golden Triangle is home to four of the world’s 10 best universities for healthcare – Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College London, and University College London (UCL) – and in the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, Europe’s largest centre for medical research and health science in Europe.

Cambridge houses AstraZeneca’s new global headquarters, which will house 2,000 workers it is completed, as well as the Wellcome Sanger Institute, the heart of Britain’s genomic-sequencing work.

The ‘Oxford cluster’, meanwhile, includes the Jenner Institute – which developed the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine – the Harwell science park, and gene-sequencing equipment manufacturer Oxford Nanopore, one of the largest firms to emerge from the UK’s life-sciences ecosystem.

Snedden Campbell now places more senior science professionals in Cambridge alone than it previously did in the whole of the UK, according to its chief executive.

He said: “Cambridge has come from almost nowhere in diagnostics, six or seven years ago, to being dominant in what we do. The university, the local authority and national government have been able to put an infrastructure together. It’s easy to get to, it’s not a bad place to be and London is nearby.

“With London doing the money and Oxford and Cambridge doing the science, we have the infrastructure for a globally dominant sector.

“Having one of the business capitals of the world close to two major science bases, is getting close to the ideal. You get the symbiosis that Massachusetts gets being close to New York.”

He added: “British universities keep appearing in the world’s top 50 universities and they produce some very good people indeed, who go on to do Masters’ and PhDs in the UK.

“It’s certainly the case that the big UK science universities are producing the kind of people that everyone from early stage to big corporate scientific and engineering organisations want to hire.

“It’s particularly interesting the number of start-ups in Cambridge launched by people who have been to Cambridge University at some stage and hiring people who were also students there.

“While this isn’t America and we are still short of at least a zero on investment numbers, we do have a pretty strong base of people starting businesses up who have got a fighting chance of getting somewhere.”

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Last Updated: 12-Oct-2022