Plenty of dental opportunity
The British Dental Trade Association (BDTA) is heralding the opportunities of the UK healthcare industry, particularly in dental care, while pointing out the need to properly nurture the small innovative companies that are its driving force.
Ed Attenborough, president of the BDTA points to the issues in the dental sector as being typical of the wider opportunities in the healthcare sector.
‘There are amazing advances being made in the dental sector at present, to the extent that a visit to the dentist is rapidly becoming unrecognisable because of advances in non-invasive treatments such as treatment with ozone and photoactive disinfection, while digital dentistry is making the fitting of crowns and new teeth so much easier. Just around the corner is stem cell technology, which holds out the very real prospect of new teeth being grown to replace those lost through decay or accident. Many of these key technologies are being developed in UK companies and institutions, using the skills of our leading scientists, technologists and innovators.
‘However, these innovations need to be taken forward and commercialised and the right resources are needed to nurture the small enterprises and university spin-outs, which are leading the way in innovation. My own region of the east Midlands has established crucial healthcare innovation commercialisation expertise and infrastructure over the past 10 years to provide a model environment for taking forward healthcare and bioscience innovation. We need to ensure that this infrastructure is properly maintained and its best elements replicated elsewhere.
‘There is a role for banks, venture capitalists, business support organisations and national and local government to play in seizing the opportunities that high growth sectors like dental innovation present. We need to provide the best possible support infrastructures to enable these technologies to be commercialised in the UK. Failure to do so will see the profit streams from UK innovation and invention accrue to overseas companies who will also establish their manufacturing and development infrastructure, and therefore jobs, elsewhere.
‘This is not just a question of access to funding, although that is obviously important. The whole process of taking an innovation to the point of commercial launch involves accessing the right contacts and advice at the right time; this will include advice on intellectual property, marketing and export advice, management of human resources in a development team and even simple things like accessing the right accommodation. A spin-out or other small healthcare business should not have to learn these things through trial and error; access to a supportive business infrastructure will shorten commercialisation time and save considerably on resources. The UK has tremendous opportunities in healthcare innovation in general and dental innovation in particular, and we need to ensure that the benefits of the UK’s expertise in these areas are fully developed.’