A partnership has been signed between a Scottish university and an industry body to accelerate access to technology design capabilities for Scotland’s SMEs.

Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt will link up with Technology Scotland to speed up the progression of novel medical and healthcare solutions to market. 

The five-year deal will see allow SMEs from the university’s Medical Device Manufacturing Centre to engage with Technology Scotland, in particular its Product Design Scotland Network, to advance design requirements with a particular focus on the sustainability of medical devices. 

The generated knowledge, expertise and innovation will then be shared across Heriot-Watt’s global campuses including Dubai and Malaysia, along with the facility’s partner academic institutions.

Based at Heriot-Watt University’s Edinburgh campus, the MDMC is a consortium including the University of Edinburgh, the University of Glasgow and Robert Gordon University and helps Scotland’s SMEs to translate medical device concepts into commercial products. Offering free expert advice on, and access to, manufacturing engineering, regulatory issues, and funding, its staff provide technically supported access to its £2M specialist manufacturing facilities.

Technology Scotland is the representative body for the ‘enabling technology’ sector in Scotland. Through its three networks – Photonics Scotland, Product Design Scotland and MaaS Scotland – it supports a vibrant community of over 125 industrial and academic member organisations who are developing technologies to deliver product advancements in markets from healthcare and communications to manufacturing and mobility.

The new agreement was celebrated during a special visit from business minister Ivan McKee. The minister toured the state-of-the-art MDMC facilities at Heriot-Watt University, learning about the facility’s work to date, including its wide-ranging support of 115 SMEs through a combination of one-to-one projects, training and specialist events. 

The minister then met with university representatives to discuss opportunities for growth in the medical device manufacturing and biotechnology sector in Scotland, including accelerating the ‘Triple Helix of Innovation’ through closer collaboration between academia, NHS and industry. Medical device sustainability challenges in the NHS were also explored. 

Professor Duncan Hand, director of the MDMC at Heriot-Watt University, said: “Access to specialist design capability is one of the biggest challenges that SMEs working in this sector currently face. We were pleased to showcase to the Minister how the MDMC is addressing these challenges in partnership with organisations like Technology Scotland. We are a nation of innovators, but it is essential that expert support is more easily and consistently accessible to SMEs to translate their game changing innovations into devices that can be more quickly adopted for the benefit of patient care. Our new strategic partnership will further accelerate Scotland’s offering in this area, ensuring our nation retains a world-leading position in the field of medical device creation.”

Alastair McInroy, CEO, Technology Scotland, said: “Technologies developed within Scotland’s enabling technologies sector have long supported our vibrant life sciences industry. Realising the potential of these technologies, and successfully navigating the journey from concept to commercialisation, requires careful integration of design processes and frameworks. Through our Product Design Scotland network, Technology Scotland is delighted to be partnering with MDMC to provide life science SMEs with improved access to Scotland’s excellent design capabilities.”

Business Minister Ivan McKee said: “The Scottish Government supported the Medical Device Manufacturing Centre through our Advancing Manufacturing Challenge Fund to stimulate innovation and make Scotland’s healthcare more innovative in addressing urgent clinical needs, in line with ambitions for business in our National Strategy for Economic Transformation.

“So it is rewarding to learn more about this partnership between Heriot Watt University and Technology Scotland, to accelerate the development of medical and healthcare solutions in Scotland and around the world. Health Tech and medical devices provide significant economic, health and job opportunities within Scotland’s manufacturing sector. The triple helix approach of academia, industry and the NHS working in partnership is essential to growth in this sector.”