£5.7m to help region become medical centre of excellence

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YORKSHIRE’S ambition of becoming a global magnet for medical technology has received a £5.7m boost from the Government.

The University of Leeds is leading an initiative to improve the quality of patients’ lives by developing replacement joints and other medical implants.

The Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Medical Devices will lead to greater collaboration between academics and industrialists and confirm Yorkshire’s leading role in the medical sector.

The scheme at Leeds University is one of four new centres for innovative manufacturing announced by Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts that will share a pot of £21m grant funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) when they open later this year.

Apart from Leeds, the project will involve four other universities, the University of Sheffield, the University of Bradford, the University of Nottingham, and Newcastle University.

Professor John Fisher, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds and Professor of Mechanical Engineering, will lead the new centre.

He said: “The medical technology market is estimated to be worth £200bn worldwide and demand for medical devices is growing fast, driven by ageing populations that expect longer and fuller lives.

“We want to develop new ways of designing and manufacturing devices that meet the needs of particular patients and bring the manufacturing of devices much closer to them,” he added.

“Instead of doctors ordering, unpacking and fitting implants, we want devices to be personalised to meet individuals’ needs and be made in or near the clinical setting.”

The University of Leeds’ Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (iMBE) is one of the UK’s leading bio-engineering research institutions.

It has pioneered work on longer-lasting joint replacements, revolutionary spinal interventions and ‘biological scaffolds’ for tissue repair that grow with the body.

The initial focus of the new centre’s work will be on medical devices for musculoskeletal and cardiovascular disease, where the cost of failure is high and the need for devices that keep working for a patient’s whole life is clear.

The centre will also develop a network of more than 300 industrial partners, academics and clinicians who are focused on medical device innovation and manufacturing.

The network will support the adoption of new technology in the NHS by working with the new Academic Health Science Networks.

Professor Fisher said the centre was “strategically aligned” with plans for a health hub in Leeds.

The centre will be up and running in October this year, and it could leverage private sector investment of up to £50m in the next five to 10-year period, Professor Fisher added.

Leeds and Partners chief executive Lurene Joseph said:“I am delighted with this excellent news. The expertise in the city is proving to be a magnet for investment and this endorses our sectoral approach, bringing together expertise and delivering targeted success.

“Following on from our recent healthcare summit, involving leading figures from Leeds and the wider city region, we are targeting global investment which will deliver more jobs, extra resources and a successful, expanding healthcare sector.

“Leeds and the wider city region are already home to a wide range of medical, healthcare and technological developments.”

greg.wright@ypn.co.uk