G7 Series - Med-tech innovator's prognosis improves after COVID hit

Posted on: 28/05/2021

A medical technology innovator is seeing significant growth following support from Innovate UK EDGE to overcome challenges posed by the pandemic.

A Dorset-based med-tech innovator, who partners with clinicians, SMEs and universities from across the UK to solve unmet clinical needs, saw its business decline by 80% due to the impact of COVID.

Keith Heaton, managing director of i2r Medical describes its business model: “Our typical partner might be a clinician who has identified a specific clinical problem that is having a negative effect on the patient and the healthcare system. We step in to clarify the unmet clinical need and work with the innovator to design a solution that can be manufactured at a viable price.”

i2r Medical operates across all classes of medical and diagnostic devices, from sticking plasters to heart valves. Recent innovations from the company have included devices that help the treatment of skin cancer, aids to the diagnosis of eye conditions and systems which recover and reuse a patient’s blood during operations.

In its first decade of trading, i2r Medical was able to capitalise on the significant growth that has been seen in the UK medical devices market since the early 2000s.

UK trade association, GTMA, estimates that the UK market grew from £7bn in 2015 to £12bn in 2019. Growth has been fuelled by increasing expenditure on healthcare, growing life expectancy and significant technological development.

“2019 was our most successful year,” says Keith, “and 2020 looked set to be even better until the pandemic struck and projects declined by 80%. We needed to connect with prospective customers and partners quickly, so began work with Innovate UK EDGE.”

Innovate UK EDGE innovation and growth specialists, Jayne Codling and Patrick Finnemore started work with i2r Medical to develop a strategy to restore the company’s pre-COVID growth and identify new sources of revenue, leveraging their networks to connect i2r Medical to potential partner organisations.

“Jayne and Patrick introduced us to five businesses that are now paying clients, some of which were outside of the healthcare sector and were looking to pivot into medical devices. We don’t have a lot of time for networking and now that conferences are impossible, we simply wouldn’t have found them without their support.”

Jayne next provided inroads into Bournemouth University, introducing i2r Medical to key academics. As a result of those introductions, the two organisations are now planning a number of collaborative projects, including a joint funding application to Innovate UK.

“Traditionally, one of our challenges is that we haven’t had many local academic partners,” says Keith. “Bournemouth University is a major organisation and it’s difficult to know where to begin – so again, the introductions from Jayne proved absolutely vital.”

IP support from Innovate UK EDGE

Jayne then arranged for i2r Medical to receive IP advice from an Innovate UK EDGE specialist and then go on to participate in the UK’s IP Audits Scheme.

Funded by the IPO and by Innovate UK, the scheme provides a grant of up to £2,500 for businesses to appoint an IP Attorney to provide an audit of IP assets and advice on IP strategy.

i2r Medical appointed IP Attorney Kate Butler to perform the audit.

“We’ve been building up IP assets for 10 years,” says Keith, “and while we can manage that portfolio ourselves, having an outside expert come in and provide an independent report has been hugely beneficial to us.”

“We didn’t realise quite how much IP we had, and Kate was able to provide recommendations and a valuation, which could prove extremely useful in the long term.”

Domestic and international growth

i2r Medical is now recovering rapidly from the effects of the pandemic on its business, with more active projects in progress than at any previous time.

The company is working with Innovate UK EDGE to find partners internationally and accelerate growth in the Middle East and Asia.

For Keith, the bespoke support from Innovate UK EDGE has proved critical in the past year: “there’s a lot of support for SMEs out there, but often it’s not very targeted. Jayne had the expertise and the willingness to understand our business and create a bespoke plan that has been absolutely pivotal.”

Innovate UK EDGE will continue to support this Dorset-based innovator as it develops new products and services in the medical technology market.

Jayne had the expertise and the willingness to understand our business and create a bespoke plan that has been absolutely pivotal.

– Keith Heaton, managing director at i2r Medical

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