Published: 26 May 2021
The NIHR has appointed a MedTech Industry Engagement Adviser to help optimise collaborations and champion opportunities for small- and medium-sized companies (SMEs) as part of our support for the burgeoning MedTech sector.
Martin Hunt, a member of the NIHR Strategy Board who was the first Director of NIHR’s Invention for Innovation (i4i) Programme from 2009 until March 2021, has been appointed to the specialist role.
Martin has held senior roles in several MedTech companies during more than 30 years working in the life sciences industry. A former chief executive of Tissue Science Laboratories (TSL), he helped build the company from a start-up into an international business floated on the London Stock Exchange. Since TSL was sold in 2008, Martin has acted as a Chairman, non-executive director, investor and mentor to a wide range of dynamic companies in the UK and Europe.
Martin said: “I have been very fortunate to have worked across the MedTech sector in a variety of roles, including large multinationals and SMEs. I firmly believe that novel and innovative technologies will contribute significantly to the ability of the health and care sector to meet the multitude of challenges it faces.
“SMEs play a key role in this landscape, not only as innovators but also as important contributors to the economy, and I am excited about the opportunity to forge further partnerships and collaborations between MedTech companies and the NIHR to address the health and wealth of the nation.”
A key focus of the NIHR is to support SMEs by providing access to expertise, clinical trial management and funding. This will enable them to design and carry out high quality research to provide evidence of feasibility, safety, efficacy and cost-effectiveness of interventions, bringing benefit to patients and supporting growth in the life sciences industry.
As MedTech Industry Engagement Adviser, Martin will lead on the NIHR’s strategy to develop effective ways of working with SMEs. He will maximise NIHR exposure to SMEs and advocate for them within the health research system, spanning programmes, infrastructure and the NIHR Academy. He will also identify any barriers to effective engagement and support the development of relevant wider service offerings to the sector.
Initially for two years, the role will be key to supporting NIHR delivery against a number of governmental policy levers. These include the NHS Accelerated Access Collaborative, established to fast-track promising medicines, diagnostics and digital services through clinical development and regulatory approval, and the Research and Development Roadmap, which outlines the UK’s vision and ambition for science, research and innovation.
Dr Louise Wood, Director of Science, Research and Evidence at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and co-lead of the NIHR, said: “I am delighted that NIHR will continue to benefit from Martin’s significant experience in the UK’s world-leading life sciences sector in his new role as NIHR MedTech Industry Engagement Adviser.
“I want companies to be able to access NIHR expertise and support more easily and Martin will be instrumental in helping this to happen.
“By forging partnerships with other organisations, he will help to increase NIHR’s traction with SMEs through targeted service offerings to the MedTech sector.”
One MedTech engagement partner will be Professor Mike Lewis, the first joint Director of both NIHR i4i and the SBRI Healthcare programmes, which are funded respectively by DHSC and NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSEI).
Professor Mike Lewis said: “Martin blazed a trail for innovation in healthcare with his work on i4i and, by developing funding schemes such as i4i Connect, has been a huge support for SMEs in the MedTech sector.
“I am humbled to succeed him as programme director and am looking forward to building upon this legacy, working with Martin in his new role to identify further priorities that will increase NIHR’s and NHSEI’s engagement with SMEs in the translational funding pathway.”