Thanks to Sunergos Innovations for this guest blog post with an update on the life sciences sector
Stimulating innovation and sector growth through university/industry collaborations – Dr Mike Capaldi, CEO, Sunergos Innovations
Scotland has always been at the forefront of life science innovation with Edinburgh playing a key role, from Lister’s discovery of antiseptic and Simpson’s discovery of chloroform to the cloning of the world’s first mammal, Dolly the sheep.
Today, Edinburgh and the Lothians continue to be significant contributors to Scotland’s growing life science sector, accounting for almost half of Scotland’s biotechnology industry. The development of Edinburgh BioQuarter perhaps epitomises the direction the sector is adopting to remain a significant player on the world stage.
BioQuarter’s role is to capture biomedical innovation in all forms and develop and package it so that it attracts the interest of industry and investors. Effectively we are helping create the building blocks of Scotland’s life science economy.
And we should be in no doubt that in today’s global economy, our ability to compete depends on our ability to innovate. As the pace of technological development accelerates, innovation is often all that stands between success and failure
True innovation however, is difficult to come by. As anyone knows who watches Dragon’s Den, coming up with a new idea for a new product doesn’t always cut it with investors or consumers. Innovation in modern medicine is particularly challenging. The more we learn about the biology of the human body, the more we learn how little we know when it comes to curing some of our most troubling diseases.
Ground breaking research these days requires a multidisciplinary approach and modern biomedical scientists come in all forms; physicists, chemists, geneticists, surgeons, and mathematicians to name a few. Curing many of the – as yet – untreatable diseases requires new approaches and multiple inputs.
Steve Jobs, founder of Apple sums this up perfectly:
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things”.
However, creativity is not just about differences – the chemistry has to be right for the magic to happen. The working environment must enable and encourage cross-fertilisation between disciplines. Cross-functional teams must be built around projects, rather than having a series of silos where information gets handed on once their part of the job is done.
So in a world where innovation is critical and we are all busy, it is too easy to reach for the similar. To innovate, we need difference, and for difference to trigger creativity, we need the right chemistry. This can happen as easily as in a café during a conversation between two people who see the world differently.
About six years ago the University of Edinburgh joined forces with Scottish Enterprise and NHS Lothian to form Edinburgh BioQuarter and create the right chemistry to fuel innovation. The vision was one of a shared campus, with scientists, industrialists and clinicians from different disciplines united around a common vision of improving public health. Access to state-of-the-art research facilities was key, with multiple academic research institutes full of world class researchers and technologies, a medical school, and industry all working together, creating a vibrant community.
A critical element in delivering this vision was to assemble a team of industrialists to work with Edinburgh University’s College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine and NHS Lothian to act as a catalyst. As a result, the Commercialisation Team was born. We have now spun-out of the University to become Sunergos Innovation Ltd – a commercialisation catalyst aimed at transforming research into returns for entrepreneurs and our university partners
Our ultimate vision is to build an ecosystem in the North of the UK where innovation and commercialisation go hand in hand – encouraging scientists to not just come up with new ideas, but to think about how these could be applied to improve healthcare in the real world. By stimulating the right environment for innovation, we can ensure discoveries made by Scottish scientists continue to deliver benefits to patients worldwide.