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Cornwall: G7 host, tourism hotspot and healthtech hotbed

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Though it may seem an unexpected destination, over the past few years Cornwall – which made international headlines last week as the host of the G7 summit – has seen a huge growth in its healthtech sector, attracting businesses from across the world. Why? Nicola Lloyd, director of trade and investment for Cornwall Trade and Investment, examines how Cornwall’s established healthtech ecosystem is attracting businesses from across the globe

 

As the UK lurches into the biggest mental health crisis in living memory, depression, post-Covid isolation and increased NHS wait times are all being tackled in innovative new ways from the heart of Cornwall.

According to Tech Nation’s annual 2021 report, there was a total of £18.3million invested in the South West healthtech sector in 2020, a 591 per cent increase from 2019-2020 investment. Cornwall’s healthtech industry has seen a total turnover growth of over 150 per cent since 2010 – with the business and domestic software development sector seeing the largest growth of around 922 per cent.

We’ve seen a huge increase in investment into the healthtech space, which in turn has attracted international businesses to the region. One of the key reasons for this is with one acute care trust, one clinical commissioning group and one local authority, Cornwall is an ideal testbed for healthtech innovation, offering a streamlined entry point into the world famous NHS network. 

Nicola Lloyd, director of trade and investment for Cornwall Trade and Investment

Companies from across the globe have chosen Cornwall as their UK base, recognising not only the rapidly growing healthtech offering, but also that the region is a unique microcosm of the challenges faced by top-level healthcare providers – with diverse demographics, from students to the elderly, many of whom live in rural areas and have limited access to primary care. 

Connecting communities and people to adequate care post-pandemic has never been more important and we are lucky enough to have seen Cornwall become a home to businesses leading the way in remote healthcare, increasing resilience to future pandemics and improving wellbeing through forward thinking technology – like depression-busting headsets and memory bank apps. 

With a particularly similar demographic and geographic setup to the Nordics, it is no surprise that many of the healthcare technology solutions developed to best serve Nordic countries are also experiencing huge success in Cornwall. Below are just a few of the businesses we have helped support expand into the region.

Swedish company Flow Neuroscience believes unlocking the science of the brain is key to understanding mental health. They have developed a headset that combines brain stimulation and behaviour therapy with the help of an app treatment programme to reduce depression and increase positive routine. They are currently working with the Healthwave team, who exist to increase digital inclusion within healthcare, and Cornwall Trade and Investment on trialling this product across Cornwall to realise its potential for the UK. 

For Finnish healthtech company Klinik, the presence of Kernow Health CIC and its sandbox offering, which provides access to GPs at scale for healthtech digital research and trials, paired with the unique local challenges and opportunities made Cornwall the landing point for their international expansion. With Klinik’s total triage solution and patient flow management software already deployed in 300 clinics across its home country, all they needed was to see how the same tools could be applied in the NHS, and this is what they were uniquely able to find in the region. 

Throughout the pandemic, over the past year, Klinik have gone from operating in five GP practices to over 120 across the UK – it is incredible to see how technology has helped alleviate the burden of increased demand on practices – positively impacting staff morale and patient experience.

Saving valuable time and resources is something that Ultramed, a health tech company based in Cornwall, is passionate about. MyPreOp is an award winning online preoperative assessment program completed by patients. The information is then processed to help the clinicians decide what they need to organise to prepare the patient for their operation, e.g. blood tests. By using MyPreOp up to 50 per cent of patients are avoiding an additional trip to hospital, saving both time and carbon.

As well as trialing unique technologies for remote diagnosis, Cornwall’s healthtech ecosystem has been examining ways to provide smart, safe and secure access to care homes and assisted living facilities. eHealth Productivity and Innovation in Cornwall (EPIC) has been supporting TouchByte to enable them to demonstrate and carry out feasibility testing of their biometric facial recognition technology in real world environments. This contactless method of accessing a space with a face is currently being showcased in several care homes in Cornwall.  It has also been installed in EPIC’s demonstration centre at the Health and Wellbeing Innovation Centre in Truro, where stakeholders, including care providers, are able to experience the tech for themselves.

With nearly double the amount of healthtech companies in the region at the beginning of this decade than in 2010, as Cornwall’s tech sector grows so do the possibilities for innovation within the healthcare space.

Cornwall is in a unique position to help businesses accelerate their products and, thanks to the support in place, there are increasingly powerful opportunities for companies to make a meaningful difference in UK healthcare. This is the reason I get so excited by healthtech as a sector, because it can have a real, tangible impact on all of us and our families. The innovative trail of new solutions to improve mental health, cut diagnostic wait times and costs and tackle isolation will have global impact. 

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