Igniting European biomaterials collaboration

Darren Clarke, Managing Director, Medilink East Midlands

1 August 2012

Medilink East Midlands was privileged to host a recent meeting of the European Biomat-IN network which proved an excellent opportunity for sowing the seeds for future collaboration between SMEs in the field of biomaterials research and commercialisation.

The inaugural Special Interest Group meeting was held at our headquarters at BioCity Nottingham and drew delegates from companies and partner organisations from across Europe, so providing a good platform for the further expansion of the network.

The Biomat-IN network has as its major objective the stimulation and facilitation of collaborations between biomaterials industry players across European boundaries, particularly among smaller companies. Medilink East Midlands has a great deal of experience in establishing networks to facilitate such collaboration, and bringing people together at events like this is an excellent way of igniting the processes involved. Our Biomat-IN partners Eurasanté, Atlanpole Biotherapies, STERN and LIOF will be working with us to build on the seeds that have been sown at the event to help establish long lasting collaborative projects.

A series of presentations allowed the partners to give an overview of the strengths within their regional clusters and presentations were also made by experts in specialised areas of biomaterials research. The afternoon session then left companies and organisations free to conduct one-to-one discussions to explore the landscape of collaborative opportunities.

As Stéphane Leprêtre from Eurasanté said after the event,
“The Biomat-in program is a real opportunity for local companies and researchers to find appropriate key partners. It attracts players in the materials and medical fields who share a vision of open innovation. Companies can meet experts who are able to provide the specialist expertise that they require. It gave me the opportunity to meet people interested in collaboration and I am sure that those meetings will lead to efficient exchanges and, most likely, to fruitful projects.”

A key element in maintaining the forward momentum to encourage collaboration is the recent “call for vouchers” from Biomat-IN which allows companies which have joined together to consider a collaboration in the area of biomaterials to apply for a voucher worth up to €10,000 to use to investigate the feasibility of the joint innovation project.

The voucher can be used to finance research and advice from one or from several knowledge providers in the partner regions. This might for example include a market study, a patent search, a legal issue or a limited technical feasibility study. These vouchers tackle the very real barriers that smaller companies experience in seeking to establish research collaborations. Such innovations make the Biomat-IN approach highly effective in igniting the potential for collaboration between European biomaterials SMEs.

Some companies came to the event in Nottingham with particular ideas in mind; others were just open to exploring opportunities as they arose. One such company was M4 Technologies Ltd.

Managing Director Laurence Archibald says, “As a small company operating in the biomedical research field, M4 Technologies Ltd has interests in collaborating with other firms that either complement our activities or provide new opportunities to participate in innovative developments. Our problem is maintaining an awareness of cutting-edge research directions at the European-level and recognising who the relevant players are. In these respects, the Biomat-IN network can provide us with a direct route to keeping abreast of both of these requirements.”

The event was facilitated by Dr Philip Breedon, Programme Leader for the Smart Design Post Graduate Framework and Erasmus design programmes at Nottingham Trent University. He also gave a presentation with colleague Fergal Coulter on The creation of low power temporospatial varying artificial muscles, reflecting his own area of expertise in the use of smart materials and technologies for medical devices.

Dr Breedon is enthusiastic about the possibilities for the network: “The Biomat-IN network demonstrates the current move towards open innovation whereby companies share information and expertise in order to make the most of their research and development activities. Medical device companies, particularly strong in the UK Midlands, are also starting to look outwards to boost their innovation and will benefit greatly from being involved with Biomat-IN.

"The project is well-targeted at a time when small companies in this sector, and in the region, are eager to work with international collaborators. The case for industry clusters is now well established. If we can leverage further benefit from networking biomaterials clusters across Europe, this will be a very exciting international development.”

A great deal of work is still required to turn the idea of SME- level collaborations in biomaterials into practical projects but the event in Nottingham demonstrates an appetite for such projects and that the Biomat-In network has the capacity to enable a step change in levels of collaboration.

As Nora Ezzaim of Eurasanté observed, “Participants were fully engaged during the Biomat-IN Special Interest Group and the one-to-one meetings. They demonstrated their willingness to work together to develop innovative new projects in biomaterials. Our objective will be to assist them in realising their transnational collaborative projects. Eurasanté will be encourage and assist our regional SMEs and Research Centers to take part in such collaborations.”


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