The Southampton UIST team at BIO in Chicago

The University of Southampton is one of the world’s leading entrepreneurial universities, with an impressive track record in creating new life science companies and engaging with the health and pharmaceutical industry. Karl Simpson, who leads the university’s Health & Pharma University Industry Sector Team (UIST), explains how UIST proactively facilitates and stimulates relationships with industry partners.

What the Health & Pharma UIST does:

The Health & Pharma UIST seeks to optimise university industry interactions in all areas from charitable giving to responding to government policy issues – as in the BIA response to the review of universities and growth led by Sir Andrew Witty. However, the main thrusts of our activity are in:

  • Ensuring employability for our graduates and post-graduates through engagement with prospective employers in the Health & Pharma area
  • Promoting academic-industry collaboration in research with a particular focus on translational outcomes.

To achieve this we identified our top 10 commercial partners. We also looked at life science companies with products requiring a research and development (R&D) input within an hour’s drive of Southampton. To our surprise there are more than 120. Together with research-active hospitals, universities and institutions in the area (ranging from Public Health England and DSTL Porton Down to Marwell Park Zoo) we have over 140 potential partners in a biomedical cluster stretching from Worthing to Dorchester and going as far north as Abingdon.

In business it is all about deliverables – we deliver on our outstanding reputation:

The Health & Pharma UIST has actively gone out to engage with industry movers and shakers – including the BIA. Our actions to achieve this aim have included:

  • Recruitment of Ian Clark (Chief Executive Officer of Genentech) and top industry players to sit on our External Advisory Board
  • Mapping Faculty/Unit capabilities and projecting these onto the needs of potential corporate partners
  • Successful targeting of corporate partners, both large and small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Among others, we organised a GSK day with their Developmental Partnerships with Academia team and a similar day with French SME, Prestwick Chemical.
  • Launch of the Health & Pharma UIST website
  • Presentation of Southampton capabilities at local and international conferences (our stand at BIO in Chicago received a very warm reception)
  • Formal creation pending for the South Coast/Wessex Biocluster, with support from Local Enterprise Partnerships, the new Wessex Academic Health Science Network and local authorities

Within the university there is considerable multi-faculty engagement and academic principal investigators are learning to adapt to the needs of corporate partners.

How we do it:

We have attended international trade shows which have led to actions; Medica Dusseldorf and BIO Chicago generated over 100 meetings, 50 call reports and 30 leads, three of which have commenced activity. This was helped greatly by having Dr Roxana Carare on the Southampton team at BIO, who is a leading Alzheimer’s worker and was able to generate significant new industrial traction there.

In June we held a UIST-led conference in Southampton – “Bench to Clinic: partnership with Health & Pharma” –which highlighted capabilities to internal staff and external partners. The BIA’s Steve Bates was one of our panellists.

  • With 100 guests planned, over 150 turned-up and were successfully engaged
  • The event received significant press and blog coverage

We’re now looking at expanding the UIST concept nationally and internationally. Romania sees the UIST concept as a way to enhance international investment! So we are seeking EU structural funding to implement this and to explore other international partners.

If you are interested in working with the Health & Pharma UIST you can contact Karl Simpson  or Brigitte Lavoie. The BIA’s upcoming Bioscience Forum and evening Autumn Reception on 10 October in London provide ideal opportunities to extend and strengthen your network and catch up on the sector’s latest developments.