OxLEP and TheHill urging SMEs to seize health and care collaboration opportunities

A drive to help small businesses make the most of their research collaborations has been launched by OxLEP, Oxfordshire’s local enterprise partnership and TheHill, the innovation centre at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Both organisations want to see more companies in health and care, working with research organisations or making even more impact with their existing relationships. The partnership is hosting a workshop on January 20th explaining how to get the most from partnerships in the health and care sector to encourage more businesses to seize opportunities.

Tracy James, who is leading the initiative at OxLEP says there are big opportunities for SMEs: “The benefits and opportunities are significant. Our aim is to provide the extra support these companies need, to make it through collaborations. We also want to attract businesses from other sectors with interests in beginning collaborations in health and care.” 

“Oxfordshire has a really vibrant and innovative economy and lots of health and care related enterprises. Our initiative will empower more small businesses to understand how they can benefit from research and development collaborations and ensure they appreciate the value they add to the partnerships.”

OxLEP and TheHill offer 1-2-1 support mentoring from experts experienced in research partnerships, grant support, links with an expanding network of businesses and organisations and business support activities. TheHill also runs an Accelerator programme to help SMEs engage with the NHS, and applications are currently open for the 2022 cohort.

Abdul Gufar from TheHill said: “The Optimise Research Collaboration workshops in partnership with OxLEP is an opportunity for those companies to maximise their collaboration. We understand the importance of research especially in healthcare and the significant impact it can have with positive outcomes to improve the patient pathway. We have designed the workshop to help companies maximise the benefits of working with their research organisations and how best to make use of outcomes.”

The health and care sectors have been under huge pressure during the pandemic but are also experiencing high levels of innovation and seeing new opportunities from advances in technology. According to Tracy James at OxLEP Oxfordshire can be a major contributor with novel solutions, products, and services. “The impact SMEs can make is really significant. What is important right now is getting people started on the path towards research collaborations.”

One company which has already benefitted by partnering with TheHill at Oxford University Hospitals Foundation Trust is RAIQC. Its founder, Sarim Ather, is a medical professional himself. He created an online diagnostic imaging platform to improve clinical training and skills, especially in Accident and Emergency departments. 

“TheHill has helped us, a small enterprise to get into the NHS to try out our app with working NHS staff. And without their guidance we’d probably have taken much longer to secure the extra funding and get an academic idea transferred across to being a commercial reality. We’re now ready to scale up and are actively trialling it further across the whole of the Thames Valley” 

Anaesthetist Rachael Grimaldi has also found herself thrust into the world of business from an idea which emerged from the communication challenges for medics and patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I was on maternity leave and hearing from colleagues about how difficult it is for patients to understand doctors and nurses wearing face masks. I decided to create a digital platform with ‘flashcards’ that can be easily accessed to explain procedures and ask questions about pain, discomfort, symptoms and much more.”

Within 72 hours we had a basic website and a huge level of interest. A year on and CardMedic has had 55,000 users in 120 countries and 22,000 app downloads. As a doctor, I knew little about business, but TheHill at Oxford University Hospitals Trust has provided me with mentors, connections, advice, and resources to make a brainwave into a business. I now know how to talk to funders, speak to buyers and so much more. Being a part of their Market Access Accelerator programme has been a phenomenal opportunity and the team are brilliant!”

In addition to the help available in medical, health and care from TheHill, OxLEP has a package of support for SMEs interested in research collaborations across all sectors.

There is limited space on the health and care sector workshop, but the organisers want to hear from companies who currently have a research collaboration in the health and care arena and have a signed an agreement to support this will participate to ensure they are fully exploiting the potential of their partnerships.

The drive for medical and care research collaboration is part of the ISfB programme in Oxfordshire funded by the European Regional Development Fund programme.

Find out more about the workshop and support programme at

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