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All things Pharma

Reaching a global market

Kevin Kiely of Medilink Yorkshire and Humber looks at how regional intervention has helped companies to access a range of international customers via major healthcare exhibitions.

Innovation continues to take centre stage as the UK continues the process of restructuring its health and social care delivery systems in the face of changing demographics, rapid technology advancement and enhanced patient expectations. Within the NHS, the largest health delivery organisation in the world, innovation has taken on increased predominance – an example being the recent creation of a ‘National Innovation Centre’ focused on the application of new technology to improve patient care.

The DTI has recently made health technology a major theme of its technology strategy by prioritising specific health technologies for attention and investment. It has also created a national Health Technologies Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) to enhance technology transfer, and funded major new regional initiatives. An example is the grant of nearly £5 million over two years to the White Rose University Consortium (the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York) to bring together the clinical, academic and industrial base needed to pioneer ‘open innovation’ techniques and apply radical decision-making methodologies to accelerate health technology innovation.

Clusters and partnerships

Medilink (Yorkshire and Humber) Ltd, the founding member of a flourishing network of UK regional associations (Medilink UK), is a key partner in both the UK Health Technologies KTN and the White Rose University Consortium project, playing a major role in the development of regional, national and international partnerships. For the White Rose Consortium project, it has co-ordinated the involvement of major Yorkshire and Humber companies including Smith & Nephew, J&J Wound Management, J&J DePuy and Sheffield-based B. Braun UK, and provided opportunities for the cluster of smaller independent health technology companies in the region to collaborate in exciting new projects, sharing international property where appropriate.

Medilink (Y&H) was formed over 12 years ago, being cited in a government White Paper at the time as a ‘best practice’ model for innovation. It is a not-for-profit, membershipbased professional association that brings together the health technology industry, health delivery organisations and universities, on a formal basis, to stimulate new profitable developments and improve patient care. Its success over the years has been reflected in the development of new UK and international health technology partnerships.

Medilink (Y&H) works closely with the UK government’s international agency UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), whose recent strategy publication Prosperity in a Changing World places health technology high on the agenda for new R&D and trade initiatives to target emerging markets such as Brazil, China and India.

As an Accredited Trade Organisation for the national UKTI and Health Technologies Sector Specialist for UKTI Yorkshire and Humber, Medilink (Y&H) has proactively supported companies in expanding their international presence, and indeed has provided a gateway for distributors and research organisations across the world to partner with UK companies, hospitals and universities. Medilink is active in most of the major overseas exhibitions, and also organises both inward and outward trade and technology missions.

On a worldwide stage

The importance of attending and exhibiting at key global healthcare events cannot be overestimated. They are a fantastic platform for companies wishing to develop and create business partnerships on an international scale.

In October 2006, Medilink (Y&H) managed the first UKTI-sponsored British Pavilion at the world’s largest rehabilitation show, Rehacare in Dusseldorf. It provided Andrew Cahn, Chief Executive of UKTI, with an opportunity to meet companies such as Kingkraft (specialist bathing equipment), Safe Spaces (custommade safe rooms and safe sleeping areas), Heeken House (AAC devices for people suffering from stroke or communication difficulties) and Jenx (therapeutic products for children with special needs). All the exhibiting UK companies reported a high level of interest from distributors across the world. In particular, Kingcraft gained approximately 50 new sales leads from the one event.

One month later, at the Messe in Dusseldorf, Medilink (Y&H) and UKTI supported companies in showcasing their products at the world’s largest medical devices exhibition, Medica 2006. This featured the Yorkshirebased specialist diagnostic imaging company MAS Medical – suppliers of the FilmX eXpedo DICOM image recorder, which makes it easier for radiology departments and imaging centres to share the results of diagnostic examinations on CDs and DVDs. It also featured Brenmoor, the creators of innovative new hospital wristbands, and Lombard Polymer Coatings Division, who promoted their drug-eluting stents.

The importance of attending and exhibiting at key global healthcare events cannot be overestimated. They are a fantastic platform for companies wishing to develop and create business partnerships on an international scale.

Exhibiting at Medica, Rotherham-based company Dawmed – a specialist designer and manufacturer of cutting-edge washer disinfector dryers (WDD) – secured sales leads including new distributors in Germany, Japan and Canada. A key international company also showed great interest in Dawmed’s AERclens range, which provides a total solution for the decontamination of rigid and flexible endoscopes in ENT departments. The international company is now evaluating Dawmed’s system with a view to becoming its distributor.

A platform for SMEs

Small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that are new to export companies can be deterred from exhibiting their products by lack of experience and perceived cost barriers. This is where Medilink (Y&H) can offer particular value by helping these companies with the organisation and attendance of international exhibitions: our International Exhibition Management Service takes away all the stress and organisational effort for small companies that have limited resources.

Medilink (Y&H) has also pioneered a bespoke public relations scheme that includes press releases, targeted key healthcare trade press (UK and international), photography support and media liaison. Publicity before, during and after the exhibition maximises the return for companies investing in presence at overseas exhibitions.

To ease the cost burden, Medilink (Y&H) also acts as a gateway to the wide portfolio of funding/support mechanisms available from UKTI, proactively matching company needs with available support mechanisms such as Passport To Export, training and grant support for new exporters, TAP funding towards the cost of exhibiting, and Overseas Market Introduction Services for companies exploring new markets. At a regional level, Medilink (Y&H) has also secured UKTI funding for health technology companies to attend the following exhibitions in 2007: Arab Health (Dubai), the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (USA), Hospitalar (Brazil) and Medica (Germany).

Welcoming international visitors

Another cost-effective mechanism for British companies seeking to extend their international reach is participation in inward missions. This is when representatives of healthcare or healthcare-related organisations in other countries visit the UK to meet similar organisations and create business partnerships.

Specialist regional intervention, exploiting national strategic developments where appropriate, can significantly enhance the competitiveness of UK health technology companies and maximise their global potential.

For example, a number of Medilink (Y&H) member companies had the opportunity to link with one of the world’s fastest-growing economies through a visit from the China Association of Medical Device Industries (CAMDI) in November 2006. Organised by Medilink on behalf of Yorkshire Forward and the White Rose University Consortium, the trip saw CAMDI’s representatives looking at the region’s flourishing healthcare technology market, meeting local companies and visiting key locations with a view to forming joint ventures and technology partnerships.



In another inward mission, healthcare technology organisations from across the world met British companies at Yorkshire’s biggest ever ‘meet the buyer’ partnering event at the Harrogate International Centre in November 2006. The Global Connect event, organised by Medilink (Y&H) and UKTI, saw 20 delegate buyers from Saudi Arabia, Italy, Malaysia and Ireland discussing potential business opportunities with British companies.

The long arm of technology

Yorkshire has one of the largest health technology clusters in the UK, and the activities of Medilink in this region demonstrate how specialist regional intervention, exploiting national strategic developments where appropriate, can significantly enhance the competitiveness of UK health technology companies and maximise their global potential.


Kevin Kiely is the Managing Director for Medilink Yorkshire and Humber.


Medilink UK

Medilink UK is a non-profit organisation that brings together, on a regional basis, medical manufacturing and distribution companies, hospitals and universities to stimulate innovation and drive forward profitable developments in the healthcare technology and systems sector.

A flourishing UK network of regional Medilinks exists, consisting of similar regional groups who are interested in co-operation, promoting innovation and developing commercial opportunities. The regional Medilinks offer specific and tailored services to their member companies.

To find your local contact, visit www.medilink.co.uk


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