Supporting health innovation to power up the North
7 November 2023

Supporting health innovation to power up the North

Leeds is known for its strong culture of partnership and collaboration, sharing an ambition to become the best UK city in which to live and work.

The city’s strengths in healthtech, digital, data and artificial intelligence are market leading. Its demography mirrors that of the UK, so it’s ideal for innovation: to start small, trial new ideas, and scale fast.

This snapshot is just part of Leeds’ emerging Innovation Arc, which will have state-of-the-art new hospitals at its heart, forming an Innovation Village. The economic and health impacts for this are forecast to be huge.

We have a powerful collection of resources in the city region but navigating them can be a challenge – we must be able to grow and sustain well-connected support networks to help innovators and nurture their growth.


Powering up the North                                                         

None of this is done in isolation. Underpinning this must be the right infrastructure, real opportunities, and strong collaboration.

As Health Innovation Yorkshire & Humber, we support the NHS to systematically identify and adopt innovative health and care solutions that reflect the diversity and needs of our local population, from research, product development and evaluation through to implementation and commercialisation.

West Yorkshire has a great track record of partnership working, with a clear HealthTech strategy, an exemplary integrated care system, a vibrant HealthTech Cluster and is working towards becoming one of the Government’s Investment Zones.

It is relationships with partners in the city that help us, together, roll out the red carpet to industry innovators and land them effectively with the right connections and support.

Our relationships span national and international networks – helping influence policy, investment and international trade, and championing the strengths of our life sciences sector.

But, as important, is fostering close regional and local relationships. Through collaboration with Leeds Academic Health Partnership – one of the biggest of its kind in the UK and the only one in our region – we help open doors to some of the most exciting opportunities and introductions in the city.

Leeds is one of the blueprints that is pointing the way to how we power up the North. It’s demonstrating what a strong ecosystem can do in terms of developing skills, embedding inclusive economic growth via its anchor institutions and welcoming innovators.


Practical support to bring real results

Assets such as Nexus at the University of Leeds supports a growing and global community of innovators – the majority of which are related to healthcare.

Similarly, the Innovation Pop Up at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is a pioneering approach connecting industry innovators with the NHS. It is already growing a vibrant community of healthtech companies, from startups to established international organisations, looking to work with the NHS.

The University of Leeds’ Centre for Healthtech Innovation is working with private, public and third sector partners to develop new health technologies.

Part of our work at Health Innovation Yorkshire & Humber involves working with these partners and innovators to improve access to these solutions. Our Propel@YH digital health accelerator brings diverse talent and capabilities needed to help innovators navigate the NHS.

The programme provides innovative organisations developing digital health solutions with access to a six-month structured course of support and advice aimed at enabling accelerated company growth and increased market presence. We help them understand and navigate the system, hone their offer, and ultimately land products and services which really solve local needs.

Our Boot Camp for international innovators builds on the success of Propel@YH and has been developed with international healthtech SMEs in mind.

The five-day programme of intensive support and masterclass content, provided by our expert partners, gives innovators a crash course on the UK healthcare market, access to subject matter experts and the opportunity to engage directly with local NHS stakeholders as well as the wider healthtech ecosystem in the Yorkshire and Humber region.

To date, we have run Boot Camps for US, Canadian, Nordic and Indian cohorts, capitalising on opportunities for growth whilst also promoting innovations that can tackle health challenges in the region.


An economy for all

We know that industry innovation in healthcare is a major part of our region’s economy. Leeds is the UK’s fastest growing city and home to the UK’s second largest regional economy outside of London.

This is driven in part by Leeds’ internationally recognised healthcare and innovation ecosystem, with some of the world’s largest healthcare data platforms being based in Leeds.

Through our YHealth for Growth campaign, in conjunction with Yorkshire Universities and the NHS Confederation, we continue to champion the intrinsic link between good health and inclusive economic growth.

Businesses within the region’s life sciences sector, which has over 14,300 people working within it, have a responsibility to positively contribute to the health of the region, which has 38% lower productivity than London and the South-East.

All businesses, even those outside of health, have an opportunity to influence and improve health outcomes. Large employers putting the wellbeing of their staff first can help model good practice for all, whilst improving health and productivity simultaneously.


Leeds at the heart of the region

So, while turbulence may continue, economies shake and pressures increase, having a vision of success and holding on to it is critical.

I’m excited that these strengths are all part of a new Health Innovation Leeds brand launching in the New Year. Supported by Leeds Academic Health Partnership and its constituent members, Health Innovation Leeds will represent these assets and opportunities to national and international markets.

If all our region’s health-focused companies have the right support to come together with the region’s private sector employers, collectively they have the potential to drive huge positive shifts in population health.

I welcome this dovetail with our own new name as it perfectly reflects our partnership between region and city, where we work together behind the scenes to provide a seamless and successful experience for innovators. And, as our county becomes increasingly more collaborative than competitive, to strengthening our work towards levelling up the North.


Richard Stubbs is Chief Executive of Health Innovation Yorkshire and Humber, Chair of the national Health Innovation Network and a board member for Leeds Academic Health Partnership.


Health Innovation Yorkshire and Humber
It is relationships with partners in the city that help us, together, roll out the red carpet to industry innovators and land them effectively with the right connections and support.
Richard Stubbs