Bionow is a membership organisation that supports business growth, competitiveness and innovation within the biomedical and life science sectors in the North of England. It adds value and cost-efficiency to scientific, clinical and business operations within early stage and growth-oriented firms. We spoke to David Holmes, Membership Manager at Bionow, about the strengths of the region’s health and life sciences sector, and why more businesses in the industry are choosing to locate in North East England.
Can you tell us about Bionow and how you support life science companies in the North?
We work tirelessly on behalf of our members, as we passionately believe in promoting and building the sector across northern England. There are a number of things we do to support life sciences businesses in the North. All Bionow members gain immediate access to a procurement scheme that provides significant savings, and therefore boosts their competitiveness. This is then coupled by the work we do to connect the sector, keeping companies up to date, and giving them a platform via our news page and newsletter to promote themselves to each other, and beyond.
In addition, companies can keep up to date with developments and research, and meet each other at our life science focused conferences, webinars and networking events. They also have the opportunity to showcase their own R&D in subjects such as oncology, precision medicine, pharma manufacturing and AMR – all areas that are very relevant to life sciences in northern England and beyond.
What opportunities exist for health and life sciences companies based in our region?
The North East region is a great base for health and life science companies, hence its emergence as an increasingly significant hub in recent years.
What really sets the region aside from other parts of the UK is the innovation and market opportunity that exists here. For example, life science companies here have rapidly adapted and innovated using existing research and development expertise in the region to support the fight against COVID-19; we have always been at the forefront of innovation.
We have a unique combination of medical and technology assets and highly collaborative networks. These enable great market entry and supply chain opportunities. Plus, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is consistently in the top ranks of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) league tables for their clinical research and trials providing excellent routes from bench to bedside.
We have some great facilities in terms of CPI’s expertise, which compliments the great work of our universities. The Biosphere at Newcastle Helix and NETPark in County Durham are growing hubs for health and life science companies.
We also have a steady stream of talent coming from the universities to provide the skills needed to help sustain the growth of the cluster.
That said, this is very much a global sector, and to keep growing we need to make our presence felt beyond the North East, and that is where organisations like Bionow come into play. We help connect businesses across our region with companies further afield, supporting the growth of the cluster and showcasing it to a wider audience.
The North East has some fantastic assets – from the National Horizons Centre, to quality office/lab space at The Biosphere and NETPark. How important are these assets for life science companies?
As mentioned earlier, the life sciences sector is a very connected one – more than pretty much any other sector. Collaborations happen all the time, therefore the majority of companies in this sector seek to be part of a community rather than stand in isolation.
Having tangible assets like NETPark, The Biosphere, and the National Horizons Centre are crucial in providing an environment where companies can cluster together. Pardon the plug, but Bionow is another of the region’s valuable assets; supporting businesses to work together and grow the sector in the North East.
In order to thrive, we need to continue to make the region a vibrant and exciting place for health and life sciences businesses to invest in.
The BioFocus Conference was held digitally in July 2021, tell us about the event.
BioFocus is an annual conference that seeks to connect and showcase organisations working in the North East’s life sciences sector.
There are a number of reasons to attend; primarily, it is a great way of keeping up to date with developments in the sector, and there is also the opportunity to meet both existing and new contacts from other companies in the region and beyond.
A big part of the BioFocus Conference is about telling the world what we have here in the North East, and showcasing the fantastic companies and facilities based here. So in essence, you never know who you will meet at the event, and because it was online, we could attract delegates from a wider geography this year. All being well next year, we will be able to hold the conference physically in the centre of Newcastle upon Tyne again.
In September 2021 you host the annual BioCap Conference. Tell us more about it, and why should companies attend?
Each year, BioCap aims to give life science companies across the north the opportunity to network with, hear from, and pitch to more than 60 life science specialist investors.
The pitch and networking is really valuable for companies in northern England, as they sometimes find it more difficult than their southern counterparts to make connections with investors. That’s why we run a pitching competition ahead of each conference.
The event this year is online due to the pandemic, however, this really does play into the hands of attendees, as we can attract investors from further afield. Last year’s online conference saw a $1 billion-plus Israeli investment fund join us, as well as the MD of Novartis Venture Fund, who joined from Switzerland. We are seeking a similar stellar line up for this year’s conference too.
Finally, Invest North East England and its partners support business moving to the region. For a life sciences company looking to move here, what would you say are the top three benefits of locating in North East England?
I could go on and on about why the North East is a great place to locate to, but I’ll condense it down into my top three.
First I would say is cost effectiveness; lab space, research and staff are all excellent, and as a business your money will go a lot further in the North East then in many other areas around the UK.
Second would be connectivity. The North East is well served by the East Coast Mainline, regional airports and road connections.
Third would be the world-class research taking place across many different areas at our regional institutions. Anyone coming to the region will find themselves in a great position for potentially exciting collaborations.
David Holmes is Membership Manager at Bionow. For more information about Bionow, visit bionow.co.uk.
About the North East’s health and life sciences sector
Health and life sciences is recognised as a sector of strategic importance in the North East because of the skills, talent and expertise that exists within the region.
North East England’s strongly integrated eco-system – which allows the sector to work together across R&D, the healthcare system, public health and the private sector – is set to drive future growth.
Earlier this year, the region launched its ‘North East Health, Life Sciences and Medicines Manufacturing Strategy’, which aims to double the number of jobs in the North East’s health and life sciences sector, and double the number of businesses active in the region’s health and life sciences community.
The strategy is aligned with the government’s ‘UK Life Sciences Vision’, which aims to position the UK as a leader in scientific excellence.
North East England’s health and life sciences businesses are working together to channel their achievements; helping to grow the sector, create more and better jobs in the North East, and help position the region as a global leader in health and life sciences.