Heriot-Watt inks partnership branded 'landmark moment' to accelerate medtech innovation

A partnership aiming to fast-track innovation in medical and healthcare technologies and better understand clinical and nursing needs in Scotland has been announced – branded a “landmark moment” with “vast” potential.

The five-year agreement will see Heriot-Watt University’s Medical Device Manufacturing Centre (MDMC) team up with InnoScot Health, which supports collaboration across the Scottish healthcare innovation ecosystem, to help bring to life new ideas and innovations from relevant professionals.

The tie-up will initially focus on identifying new healthcare technologies and the development of prototype medical devices by engaging with clinicians, doctors, nurses, and engineering students. Furthermore, both organisations will work to develop joint Continual Professional Development and training programmes that will boost the knowledge of staff from both organisations in regulatory issues relating to medical devices.

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InnoScot Health, formerly known as Scottish Health Innovations, works with NHS Scotland, providing intellectual property advice, regulatory know-how, and project-management services to support the development and commercialisation of clinical products.

Graham Watson, executive chair of InnoScot Health, said: “This mutually beneficial agreement builds on our successful long-standing relationship with Heriot-Watt University and pools our significant collective expertise. It is a landmark moment that will serve to accelerate medical and healthcare opportunities in the first instance with vast possibilities thereafter.

“We believe it will be a very successful working arrangement for both parties – from the co-creation of novel medical devices with clinicians, doctors, nurses, and engineering students, to working with Heriot-Watt University to develop joint Continuous Professional Development and training programmes to further develop staff from both organisations.”

The MDMC, which is based at Heriot-Watt’s Edinburgh campus and boasts £2 million specialist manufacturing facilities, is a consortium including the University of Edinburgh, the University of Glasgow, and Robert Gordon University and is focused on helping Scotland’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to translate medical device concepts into commercial products.

From left: Professor Marc Desmulliez, manager of the MDMC at Heriot-Watt, and Graham Watson, executive chair of InnoScot Health. Picture: contributed.

Professor Marc Desmulliez, manager of the MDMC, said the facility has in two years created a “unique business collaboration model, working with more than 60 companies, accelerating the progression of ideas to market and the adoption of medical devices into clinical settings”.

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He added: "Specialist training is fundamental to our continued success and we are confident this new strategic partnership will further accelerate Scotland’s innovative medtech SMEs, ultimately benefiting and improving patient care. We are looking forward to putting this partnership into practice.”

Dr Gillian Murray, deputy principal for business and enterprise at Heriot-Watt, said: “Entrepreneurialism and collaboration lie at the heart of Heriot-Watt University. This partnership has enormous potential to positively impact Scotland’s medical device sector by working closely with clinical individuals and teams that have a first-hand understanding of our healthcare technology needs and the solutions needed to meet them.

“Combining InnoScot Health’s extensive background in commercialisation and regulation with the expert manufacturing engineering guidance of the MDMC will allow us to accelerate medical device innovation across Scotland and beyond.”

MDMC notes that companies it has supported since its launch in 2020 include Confidence Plus, which makes a device to contain stoma bag leaks, while the facility at the height of the pandemic worked with additive manufacturing specialist Abergower to develop a new manufacturing facility, mass-producing 3D-printed Covid-testing swabs that are less intrusive than traditional cotton bud versions, and are now being used by more than 20 million people in the US.