Healthcare Industry Regains World Status for North-East

Article excerpt

With the announcement that the region's last coal mine is to close, it is clear that the industries that once dominated the lives and economy of our region have passed into history. However, like the phoenix, the North-East of England is rising from the ashes of its industrial heritage ( the industrial economy that once characterised the region is being replaced by a new, hi-tech, knowledge-based economy.

The North-East is quickly developing a world-wide reputation as a world leader in the specialisms of healthcare and life sciences. Major growth areas such as stem cell research, investigations into age-related illnesses and new cancer treatments are finding homes in the region's universities.

Dr Fred Wright is chief executive of the Centre of Excellence for Life Sciences, the One NorthEast-funded organisation charged with nurturing the healthcare and life sciences sectors of the region's economy. Dr Wright introduces the work of his organisation and the reasons for growing this burgeoning industry in the North-East.

DUE to increasing wealth, ageing populations and many other factors, life science and healthcare markets around the world are worth many billions of pounds per year and are growing fast. These diverse activities include diagnostics, disease treatment and bio-processing to name just a few.

The regional development agency, One NorthEast, has identified this as a key sector and is firmly committed to creating major and sustainable economic growth in this field.

Of course, other regions have spotted this potential too and the lesson for the North-East is clear ( our strategy must address specific fields and build on strengths that are unique to the region if we are to succeed.

The Centre of Excellence for Life Sciences (CELS) was established to undertake this task, and recruited a team of entrepreneurs, investors, technologists, intellectual property and marketing specialists to make it happen.

CELS' task is to identify the core strengths of the regional economy and provide commercial management, sponsorship and support to grow them into world-class propositions. To start with, CELS focused on the region's biotechnology companies, including key activity areas such as stem cells, bio-processing and biosensors.

However, our remit has recently expanded to encompass the broader healthcare economy and, with this in mind, plans are in place to create a new cluster organisation to drive growth of the region's pounds 4bn healthcare economy.

A region-wide survey is underway to identify organisations that are active in, or have interests in, healthcare activities and that wish to participate in the cluster.

In each area, CELS will focus on activities where the region already has research strengths within its universities, clinical strengths in its hospitals and ideally a number of companies operating in the field in question. …