By Graeme Houston

FOR those of us committed to developing medical technology (MedTech) to help people around the world live long, healthy and fulfilling lives, the global response to Covid-19 has been revelatory.

We have seen what can be achieved when we work together towards a common goal. The ways in which the boundaries around academia, industry and healthcare systems have blurred could help spur life-saving innovation across multiple areas.

I head up Tayside Innovation MedTech Ecosystem (TIME), a translational research, training and clinical centre. TIME engages NHS, academia and commercial partners to contribute to the post-Covid recovery by developing innovative medical technologies and providing high-quality new jobs.

MedTech is with us before we are born (pregnancy tests, ultrasound and the like) and at every stage of our lives, from the everyday (the sticking plaster on a child’s knee) to the lifesaving (image-guided therapy). Spectacles, wheelchairs, stents, MRI scanners and pacemakers are examples of how MedTech aids prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.

MedTech has increasingly become about AI and other digital health tools that evaluate and communicate vital data. These tools are pivotal to healthcare innovation, and data is the key that will unlock more personalised, precision healthcare.

Previously, the silos that researchers, companies and health systems work in acted to stymie the transformative potential of MedTech, leading to skills gaps and not enough patient-centred development. Covid has shown how a synergistic approach can make rapid progress. As walls have come down, collaborations have accelerated technological changes, and interactions have become mutually beneficial rather than merely transactional.

The pandemic has demonstrated that the NHS can be agile and innovative, that industry is concerned with the common good, and that academia can affect significant change at cost and scale.

We now need to leverage the Covid experience in the MedTech sphere.

Already a globally recognised centre for clinical and data-driven healthcare innovation, the University of Dundee is uniquely placed to act as a catalyst for disruptive technologies. We have a proven track record of attracting commercial partners, are at the forefront of AI healthcare advancements and, by partnering with NHS Tayside, have access to some of the most robust, interlinked datasets in the world.

The challenge is now to deepen these relationships by developing an ecosystem where academics carrying out R&D, companies translating technological potential into real-world products and healthcare professionals share the same space. This is TIME.

We will support the science base, encourage companies to start and grow, and facilitate the adoption of innovative treatments and technologies. We will also ensure that the sector has access to a pool of talented people, creating high-quality jobs in the process.

The pain and sacrifices of the last year cannot be for nothing. We must use the lessons we have learnt to harness technological advances for the benefit of humankind. The ecosystem of academia, industry and healthcare systems is where it must start.

Graeme Houston is Professor of Clinical Imaging and co-lead of the Growing the Tay Cities Biomedical Cluster