1. Secondment Opportunity at Versus Arthritis

    Download application form

    Are you a PhD student or post-doctoral researcher based at one of the Translate partner universities and looking to broaden your knowledge, skills and networks with a secondment?

    Translate MedTech is seeking a PhD student or post-doctoral researcher (based at one of the Translate partner universities: University of Bradford, University of Huddersfield, Leeds Beckett University, University of Leeds, University of York) to work alongside the Research Liaison and Evaluation, and Research Awards teams at Versus Arthritis. These teams work closely together to provide information on research funded by Versus Arthritis.

    This Translate MedTech secondment opportunity can be fully flexible, full or part-time, and continue up to a maximum of three months starting in April 2019. Up to £2,500 is available to cover travel, accommodation and subsistence costs. The successful candidate will be expected to work from either the Versus Arthritis office in Chesterfield, Derbyshire or London. 

     The secondment will provide an opportunity to gain understanding of musculoskeletal disorders; enhance communication skills; understand the motivations and values of charitable medical research funders; develop project management skills and understanding of the grant funding process and provide experience of patient involvement.

    We are Versus Arthritis. We are volunteers, healthcare professionals, researchers and friends, all doing everything we can to push back against arthritis. We’re reaching out to everybody with the information and support they need, funding vital research and changing the way society sees arthritis. Together we’ll keep running, researching, influencing, volunteering, advising, chatting, baking, listening.  We won’t stop until no-one has to tolerate living with the pain, fatigue and isolation of arthritis.

    Join us and use your skills, knowledge, passion and energy to help us defy arthritis.

    The Translate MedTech programme is a partnership of universities in the Leeds City Region with world-class expertise in the development of new medical technologies. Translate’s mission is to establish a sustainable community of academic, industry and clinical partners that are connected and committed to working in partnership to deliver a strong local economy and patient benefits.

    Closing date: 5pm on Wednesday 6 March 2018.

    For further details, eligibility criteria and deadlines, download the Translate MedTech Secondment opportunity at Versus Arthritis  Guidelines and EOI form.

    Download application form

  2. Opening doors to better business engagement

    Dr Julian Sorrell is Business Development Manager at Leeds Beckett University and has overseen the University’s engagement with the Translate programme.

    As an institution, Leeds Beckett University is benefitting hugely from Translate – in part because the programme’s approach very closely mirrors our own, with an emphasis on bringing together effective partnerships to co-develop innovative new products and services.

    Establishing effective networks

    An important part of Translate is its ability to create a collaborative environment. We’ve certainly expanded our network of relevant business contacts through engagement with the Translate programme – and this is an area where Leeds Beckett already takes an innovative approach.

    One example is our University Business Centres (UBCs), set up, not on our campuses like many universities, but across West Yorkshire. These act as shopfronts for the University, offering business space, support and training and helping us to have a wider reach, particularly to SMEs. The UBC in Leeds is focused purely on digital technology: maybe one day it will house a start-up that we can trace directly back to the Translate programme.

    Co-developing solutions

    But business engagement is only one part of the picture for medtech innovation – the collaboration has to include clinicians and end users, often patients or those with long-term conditions. Again, this is an area where we had already been developing new approaches, that have a direct synergy with Translate. We co-funded, for example, a post with Assistive Living Leeds (ALL), an arm of Leeds City Council that deals with assistive technologies and support for people with disabilities and the elderly.  This led to the creation of ALLINN – the Assistive Living Leeds Innovation Lab – which provides end-user consultation and needs analysis services to companies developing assisted living technologies.

    In 2016, Translate worked with ALLINN to run a workshop on assistive technologies, one of a series of similar workshops bringing academics, clinicians, industry and end users together to identify unmet clinical needs and potential technologies to address them. We recognised the value of this model and so made sure our academics took part in as many of the workshops as possible, creating connections and making new contacts in different client and end user groups. Although of course, not all the workshops led to projects and technologies being taken forward, they did create the right environment, so multi-disciplinary teams could be put together quickly to assess opportunities.

    Creating a two-way knowledge exchange

    At Leeds Beckett, most of our research is already very applied. But, however experienced they might be, academics rarely have all the skills they need, all the time. Translate has allowed us to increase the level of skills within the University around key technology areas, through secondments with companies or clinical partners – or even other universities. Too often knowledge exchange is seen as one way: academics sharing their expertise. But through Translate, the knowledge exchange has been inward, helping our academics gain the skills they need to progress an medtech idea.

    We’ve benefitted in the Business Development Team as well, in particular from the additional IP support available through Translate. The programme has provided tools and expertise to help us analyse business propositions more rapidly, to assess commercial potential and identify next steps, particularly around patient and clinical engagement. We’ve been able to speed up our processes as a result, something that will continue to bear fruit in the future. Above all, our aim is to meet the needs of the region’s business. Through partnerships like the one we’ve established with Translate, we can ensure our contribution delivers real impact.

  3. Top tips for collaborative innovation

    Liz Towns Andrews is a member of Translate’s Advisory Board, where her expertise in forging links between the worlds of business and academia has been invaluable. As Director of Research and Enterprise at the University of Huddersfield, Liz led the development of the University’s flagship 3M Buckley Innovation Centre (3M BIC). The centre has become a highly successful regional hub, supporting both spin-in and spin-out ventures. In 2013, Liz was awarded the Queens Award for Enterprise Promotion, recognising the role she has played in promoting entrepreneurship in the region. Here, she shares her advice for successful collaborative innovation.

    1. Learn to speak two languages

    Years ago, when I was Director of Innovation for the Science and Technology Facilities Council, I realised that taking an academic into a business meeting could often be counter-productive. They would talk at length about the specifications of the technology they had developed, but wouldn’t manage to get across what problems it can solve – or how exciting it might be!

    I started to understand that you need a foot in both camps. You need to be able to grasp the languages spoken by both academics and business. Once you can get a dialogue going, you find the differences are much more to do with perceptions than about reality. They start to fall away and then you can start to find common ground.

    2. Help build the business pyramid

    Businesses need far more than simply access to finance if they are to grow successfully. They need access to market, and those early deals. Later they might need finance for developing new concepts, products and technologies, and after that they need access to skills and research and development expertise.

     You could imagine this as a pyramid – the basic things like business security and cash flow are towards the bottom, with more sophisticated needs further up. In order to help businesses on that journey, you have to help with the basics and support their development towards the higher end services that we, as a university, are really well-placed to deliver. At 3M BIC, we’ve provided a one-stop shop for all those services, forging partnerships with intermediaries who can help with things like accountancy, or business plan development to make it as easy as possible to get the right support in those early stages.

    3. Deliver access to technology

    It’s one thing to help businesses get off the ground and develop to the point where they might need access to university skills – but how do you persuade academics that they want to work with industry? One approach we’ve used is to offer access to technology. We’ve been able to bring in grant funding to purchase capital equipment that augments what is already available in the University. Researchers have access to this kit, on the understanding that its primary purpose is for engagement with industry.

    These investments tick a lot of boxes with our business partners as well. By getting access to equipment they would not otherwise be able to afford, they can de-risk their innovation processes, experimenting on a pay-as-you-go basis.

    4. Lead by example

    The 3M Buckley Innovation Centre first opened five years ago and now it operates as a stand-alone business. By attracting ‘spin-in’ companies to co-locate in the University and develop their R&D potential, we’ve created an environment where research intensity can build. That’s contributed to the University’s own IP development – and, as that expands, the resulting spin-out companies have a home where they can start to grow.

    We’ve shown how successful this model can be. As a result, we’re getting regular visits from other universities who are looking to emulate our example. Our story is even gaining international attention – I am currently participating on an international advisory board with a university in Chile which is exploring ways to boost innovation and business engagement.

    5. Understand the innovation landscape

    We’re in the early stages of planning 3M BIC2. For that to be successful, we need to be able to reflect on our successes, but also recognise things we should do differently. In particular, we need to work harder to really understand the demographics of the Leeds City Region and where we sit within that – and where the business opportunities are. We can see, for example, that medtech and rail are key growth sectors, but there are older industries, such as textiles and manufacturing, that could thrive if we can innovate and transform them through digital technologies.

    I really believe that innovation occurs at boundaries. When you bring people together from different sectors and disciplines, that’s where you get great new ideas. That’s as true for us as it is for the businesses we support. We need to be listening continually to our partners and trying out new ways to engage, support and grow.

  4. Publish or patent? How researchers can have the best of both worlds

    University researchers work incredibly hard to produce work that can be published in journals through the academic peer review system. Publishing is a tangible research contribution: often it is the mechanism through which academics contribute to their field. It is also a necessary product of research grants – and it may represent a step towards promotion.

    But research often also leads to innovations that could, in turn, result in new products and services that can benefit society. Developing these commercially can be a complex and costly process – particularly in the field of medical technology where the route to market will often involve an industry partner or a licensing deal. For that to happen successfully, the innovation needs to be protected via a patent application.

    Of course, in order for patent applications to be filed successfully, the researcher is required to understand and carefully monitor disclosure– and particularly not to publish the work before it has been assessed for potential patentable subject matter.

    It can sometimes appear as if there is a tension between these two activities: filing a patent application and publishing research. But in fact, there is no reason why the two cannot work well alongside each other. All it takes is some good communication between the academic, the university’s technology transfer office (TTO), and the patent attorney.

    As specialist patent attorneys at Symbiosis IP, we’ve seen the best, and the worst, examples of how this relationship can work in practice. Ideally, the researcher will speak to their TTO at an early stage and will share all the information required for us to put a detailed patent application together. But even if time seems short it will usually be possible, given the right information, to file a patent application in advance of a publication deadline.

    Getting specialist advice

    The details of intellectual property protection can seem daunting, but as specialists in this area, patent attorneys can work alongside the TTO to provide advice and guidance to help academics through the process.

    We can advise, from an early stage, whether an invention comprises patentable subject matter or not. If there are particular gaps in the research that might prevent a patent being granted, we’re able to suggest other work that the researcher might need to do to gather more evidence.

    Once we’re sure that we have enough information regarding the invention, we’ll prepare an application. Although we understand what is required to put a robust application together, we need to work closely with the researcher to make sure the claims we are making are accurate, so we may go through several iterations before we arrive at a finished version.

    After this first filing has taken place, the researcher is free to publish the research, but there are still several hurdles to overcome before a patent is granted, including filing and examination of the application in the countries where patent protection is desired.

    There are costs involved along the way, and not just in securing granted patents: product development might also involve clinical trials, and activities necessary to gain regulatory approval. The final product will need to be able to offset the patent costs in order to be successful in the marketplace. Having the appropriate IP protection in place is key to success, so it’s important to get good advice as soon as possible.

    Demystifying patent law

    Often the biggest barrier to success is communication, but I think it is possible to demystify the process, and this is something we’re working on with Translate. Through Translate’s mentoring scheme, we have been able to offer some guidance to researchers who are working on innovations that will need IP protection.

    It doesn’t cost very much to take those first few steps, to find out what is involved and even to file the patent application – but it is worth being aware that starting a patent application will require commitment. Taking time to understand a little bit about the system will make those later steps much easier to understand.

  5. Running a successful secondment scheme

    This guide explains how temporary placement of academic, industrial, clinical and other collaborators on a shorter-term basis, with a small amount of budget, can lead
    to significant innovation and knowledge exchange outcomes.

    Interactive secondment scheme guide

    View our animated secondment scheme guide on your device:

    Big innovation, small budget: Running a successful secondment scheme animation (opens interactive guide in a new tab or window)

    Downloadable secondment scheme guide

    Download and print the PDF of our secondment scheme guide.

    A note to knowledge exchange and technology transfer professionals

    As a Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation (KEC) practitioner, you translate research outcomes into products and services that have an economic and social impact, often with tight budget constraints. You know that this isn’t always straightforward.

    Gaining fresh perspectives and new approaches for research is at the heart of successful innovation.

    The second part of this guide is a case study of our successful secondment scheme.

    Since the secondment scheme launch in 2016, Translate has funded 45 secondments with destinations to academia, industry and healthcare settings.

    Four steps to big innovation on a small budget

    Prepare, publicise, support and evaluate to innovate:

    Set out your aims
    Identify your participants
    Allocate your budget

    Prepare the information
    Choose your audience friendly channels
    Channel your success

    Give prompt feedback
    Broker relationships
    Target opportunities
    Provide post-secondment support

    Through feedback from participants and hosts

    Secondment scheme toolkit for KEC practitioners

    Download and adapt our secondment scheme toolkit, which includes:

    • Guidance for applicants
    • Outgoing secondment application form
    • Incoming secondment application form
    • Blog template

    Download the secondment scheme toolkit (opens a Word doc)

    Download and print the PDF of our secondment scheme guide (opens a PDF doc)

  6. Sustainability of Translate

    Translate has secured funding until the end of 2020 to continue to support innovation in medical technologies in the Leeds City Region. This funding will be used to continue supporting Translate activities which have demonstrated success throughout the duration of the program.

    Activities available will include:

    • secondment scheme – with 20 secondments funded per year
    • ‘pick and mix’ medtech innovation training courses
    • the Innovation Champion network
    • support for the development of early-stage ideas (for example, through hosting unmet needs workshops or supporting early-stage funding applications).

    Translate activities will be advertised through our new regional medtech innovation programme, Grow MedTech. Until then, you can keep up to date with opportunities through our social media pages using the links below or sign up to our mailing list.

    For any further information, contact Lisa Hill: l.hill1@leeds.ac.uk

  7. My Translate MedTech secondment: Peter Iddon

    The Translate Medtech Secondment Scheme provides an opportunity for academics, early career researchers and PhD students to develop new collaborations, progress technologies, develop capabilities and access specialist facilities.

    My name is Dr Peter Iddon, and as Development Manager at Neotherix Ltd, I am responsible for the development and translation of new bioresorbable electrospun scaffolds for tissue repair and regeneration. Neotherix develop such regenerative devices in order to enhance the body’s capacity to repair itself, by providing patients’ own cells with micron-scale 3D architectures to enhance the recruitment of reparative cells for neotissue formation.

    Neotherix has had a long history of working collaboratively with Universities across the UK, and as a small company have found the approach to be a valuable way of accessing cutting-edge research expertise that we don’t possess in-house. Therefore when the opportunity arose for me to become seconded to the University of Bradford, it seemed like a natural extension of that way of working.

    What we hoped to achieve

    We supported the application for Translate Secondment funding for two main reasons – the first was to enable one of our scientists to directly take advantage of the facilities available at a leading research-focussed university, allowing us to more effectively contribute to an existing but separate collaborative project we were involved in at the University of Bradford. The second reason was to allow us to develop proof-of-principle for an exciting new electrospun scaffold technology incorporating an additive developed at the University of Bradford, leveraging both the skills and facilities available at the institution and my own experience of electrospinning to demonstrate the potential of the approach and generate data to support an application for substantial funding.

    We achieved both objectives, with the first main benefit to Neotherix being that we could fulfil an existing critical project commitment, removing a potential barrier to project completion and allowing a key technology development programme to progress.

    The second main benefit to Neotherix was the strengthening of a nascent research collaboration and the collection of important proof-of-principle data for a very interesting potential technology. All companies have to carefully select which technologies they choose to invest in, and the data generated as a result of the secondment has strengthened the case for further investigation.

    A fantastic opportunity

    When I look back at my secondment experience I am somewhat surprised by the number of different members of the University of Bradford research community I interacted with over a relatively short time. This included staff assisting me with everything from administrative matters through to technical support, advice on how to accomplish certain tasks, or providing me access to certain items of equipment. A personal highlight is the number members of the community that were engaged with what I was doing and were willing to help, even those that didn’t even have an indirect involvement with the project!

    It can often be hard to judge whether the commitment of limited resource to any particular collaboration will result in an overall benefit. However after having taken part in this I am pleased to say that if the need and opportunity for Neotherix to undertake further secondment projects arose in the future, I would not hesitate in applying.

  8. Objective but visionary; the attributes of an entrepreneur

    Simon Chandler, Director of New Business and Partnerships at IP Group, began work in academic research but has spent most of his career in business, with both spin-outs and large biotech companies. He now acts as the interface between IP Group and its partner universities, working up new opportunities for investment, with a focus on life sciences.

    There’s a kind of momentum that can build when academics start thinking about commercialising their research and it’s very easy to get caught up in that. So my first piece of advice to any academic in that position would be: just stop for a second. Rather than rushing forwards, you need at this early stage to be ensuring the groundwork is in place to create a really strong and compelling proposition.

    Get in touch with your technology transfer office, or organisations like Translate, if you haven’t already. Be modest, admit where your experience falls short, and get all the advice and information you can before embarking on the commercialisation path.

    There are a few key things you’ll need to be able to demonstrate – and these are part of the criteria we use at IP Group to assess whether an opportunity is worth pursuing: the need for your technology and the size of this potential market, that the technology is robust and how it matches up to the competition.

    This will require a hard-hearted look at your research to assess it objectively, which isn’t going to be easy. No doubt this research is something you’ve been working on for years, it’s your personal project and it’s no surprise if you think it’s a compelling commercial opportunity.

    But an investor won’t have that personal attachment and that’s who you have to convince, if you’re going to get the funding you need to take the technology forward.

    Firstly, be realistic about the market analysis. Too often we see estimates in the billions, when in fact the technology is only really relevant to a small portion of that market. If you don’t have the skills to make this kind of assessment yourself, then get help. If your university is partnered with IP Group, then we can do some of this assessment to fully appraise the market potential.  This is where your technology transfer office and organisations like Translate can help.  We often work in partnership with them to support academic teams through the early stages of assessing the value proposition of their technology.

    Secondly, have you got the evidence you need to prove this is an opportunity worth pursuing? Can you show how it will translate from an academic to an industrial environment? Have you done enough experiments with large enough numbers to show it is robust? If not, then this needs to be your next step – and many universities have proof of concept funding available to create this evidence base.

    Thirdly, don’t be frightened of the competition – but be sure you benchmark your technology against it. It’s highly unlikely that you’re the only person trying to answer a particular clinical need – there will be other academics or commercial companies working in the same space. That’s not a problem – but you need to show how your solution is significantly better. It might not be the best for ever, as things move on. But to persuade an investor to get involved, you need to convince them that the advantage is sustainable and instil confidence that it won’t be overtaken within just a few years. Incremental improvements are unlikely to provide the head space to make a return. At IP Group we look for big ideas and accept a long timeframe of 10-15 years to mature, but most venture capitalists will be looking at 7-10 years.

    These three areas create the bedrock that your commercial proposition will be built upon. But there are other things we look for at IP Group, to help identify which propositions have the best chance of success.

    IP – intellectual property – is one of these. We don’t expect that your IP will be already protected before we get involved, but we need a clear line of sight that shows it can be in the future.

    The team – and most importantly you, as the principal investigator (PI). We don’t expect academics to take a full role in any spin-out – we appreciate that what you want to do is get back to your research as soon as possible. But we don’t want a PI that just expects to hand over the research and disappear. To ensure success, the PI has to be really engaged with the process and willing to pitch in and help with problems, such as getting extra evidence or developing an industrial prototype. This may sound a minor issue, but it can really influence whether we choose to take something forward or not.

    The plan – or more accurately, a credible execution plan. Essentially, this means a clear idea of what you need to do and how much money you need to do it – and again, this is something we work on with our partner universities. The route to commercialisation is iterative, and the plan needs to show how each chunk of money will take you to a clear value inflection point –  the milestone that moves the technology on towards commercialisation and so will encourage more investment.  This might be proof of concept results, a clinical trial or securing key customers, for example. What you don’t want is to run out of money when you’re in no-man’s-land between these milestones, as then it’s really tricky to get further funding to move forward.

    And finally – the vision. This is something you should invest time in – developing the narrative that will capture the imagination of potential investors. This needs to be tight, compelling and short – a 30 second pitch or half a page of copy – that will encourage investors to read further.

    While this has to be grounded in the facts, as I’ve laid out above, it needs to provide a glimpse of the future, go beyond the mere technicalities to show what your technology could do, the benefits it could confer, how it will create change. If your proposition looks dull, small and niche, then investors will dismiss it. If it looks exciting and far reaching, then they’ll take another look. You may not like it, but this is marketing and you are the salesperson. You’ll have to sell your proposition at every stage for bigger amounts of money, so this is something it’s worth getting right at the start.

    So – once you’ve had that stop to put the groundwork in place – think broad, think big, draw on the science and sell your vision.

  9. About my secondment: Viswadeep Sarangi – clinical insights into Artificial Intelligence

    Viswadeep is a PhD student in the Department of Electronic Engineering at the University of York, exploring the applications of cutting edge technology like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Virtual Reality (VR) to improve healthcare.

    He aims to break the wall of communication between doctor and patient by teaching a computer to analyse data the same way as a doctor.

    Viswadeep took two secondments: at Addenbrooke’s Hospital to observe and learn from the way doctors diagnose and monitor patients afflicted with gait-impairing diseases; and Florida Atlantic University’s Center for Complex Systems & Brain Sciences to access a combination of cognition and machine perception and its measurements in real time, to refine and extend the artificial intelligence capabilities under development at York.


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  10. My Translate MedTech secondment: Fiona Walker

    The Translate MedTech Secondment Scheme provides an opportunity for academics, early career researchers and PhD students to form new collaborations, progress technologies, develop capabilities and access specialist facilities.

    My name is Fiona Walker and as a senior research technician at the University of Leeds, I support the research and development of novel biological scaffolds. These scaffolds, produced from animal and human tissues, offer a non-immunogenic and cell-free scaffold to aid in the repair of diseased or damaged tissue for patients. They have the capacity to overcome the limitations associated traditional transplant grafts.

    Tissue handling – practical skills

    I applied for a secondment with NHS Blood and Transplant, Tissue and Eye Services primarily to develop new insight, knowledge and practical skills relating to the coordination, retrieval, processing and banking of human tissue grafts. NHSBT is the largest UK tissue bank which operates nationally, making it the ideal place to learn about tissue handling and storage within purpose built, state of the art facilities.

    Progressing key technologies

    I am currently developing a novel manufacturing process for a cartilage osteochondral scaffold, which will be applied to human tissues in the future. The secondment will allow me to consider how processes that I am currently developing within the research laboratory can be implemented in the clinical production setting in the future. The long term would be to support translation so that biological scaffolds under development can reach patients in the clinic sooner. I will also benefit from expert advice on working with human tissues within Human Tissue Authority guidelines.

    Access to unique laboratories and facilities

    In addition, I will have the opportunity to gain knowledge of how new and emerging projects in tissue engineering are managed and progressed from within the R&D department and experience what it is like to work with tissues within an operating theatre standard environment, clean rooms and a regulated environment that is different to my research laboratory.

    What I hope to gain

    Aside from gaining practical knowledge relating to my research projects, I will benefit from observing a range of different roles that are integral to the organisation which are outside the laboratory. The secondment will provide a unique privilege to shadow different teams ranging from the donor consent team to customer services so that I will gain an understanding about the entire process of human tissue donation and banking. I anticipate that this will offer an interesting and humbling inside perspective on a topic that is familiar to many and that will be very valuable for my personal development.

    Observing best practices across the NHSBT

    Throughout my secondment I have shadowed a range of teams to ensure that I observed the best practices as well as understanding the challenges in the supply of donor grafts; from obtaining consent through to donation, processing, banking, quality assessment, customer care and distribution.

    Tissue retrievals and processing

    Adapting a novel protocol aimed for use in a research lab into one that is suitable for use in a regulated good manufacturing process environment is a big challenge facing translation of novel grafts that are currently under development. The time I spent with the tissue retrievals and processing teams allowed me to appreciate first-hand the practical challenges associated with processing tissues. When designing protocols, I didn’t appreciate how many single use consumables must be used when processing tissues in a grade A environment, for safety reasons, and the time needed to prepare items in clean room conditions.

    Research and development and clinical science

    Members of the research and development and clinical science teams helped me to understand the pathway of delivering a new graft as a medical treatment from early stage development, through clinical evaluation, to large device clinical trials.

    Quality assurance

    After spending a day shadowing the quality assurance team, I discovered that an important consideration for researchers who are developing novel grafts is not just developing production methods that are compliant with regulatory bodies and GMP environments but also ensuring cost effective and consistent products will be produced that have little variance in quality.

    Customer care

    Finally, the time I spent with the customer care team highlighted the critical implications of managing the logistics of supplying products to hospitals and patients and the importance of considering whether a new graft can be produced to meet market demand and distributed cost effectively.

    The opportunity to visit the NHSBT has provided me with an amazing opportunity to learn from so many different departments, as well as with many practical lessons that will inform my work in the future.