A collaborative project involving the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and the Innovation Agency will see small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in Lancashire receive guidance on funding and investment opportunities.

The three-year collaborative programme, part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and launched at UCLan on 22 January, will also help businesses navigate the health ecosystem and will provide real-world validation of products and services, showing evidence of impact and benefits.

By working with the £2.4 million Health Matters programme, businesses in Lancashire can take advantage of knowledge and expertise within the partnership. The project is led by UCLan in terms of intellectual property, commercialisation and investment readiness and product validation and from its strengths in medicine, clinical practice, product design and technology development.

Programme partner, the Innovation Agency brings unique access to the NHS, clinical staff and commissioners as evidenced through its work with SMEs through the existing Healthcare Business Connect Lancashire project.

Health is one of the biggest and fastest-growing sectors in the world, valued at £400 billion globally, and the overall aim of the programme is to catalyse businesses in Lancashire to become market leaders in health, well-being and care by encouraging the development of new products, services and solutions.

Over the three years of its delivery, the programme aims to provide support for 86 businesses. To be eligible, businesses must be looking to commercialise products or services within the health and care sectors and be based within Lancashire.

Professor StJohn Crean, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Clinical, Health and Research) at UCLan, said: “The project will support the establishment of a med-tech cluster to rival Manchester and Liverpool.  Providing the key interface in Lancashire between industry, science and medicine for the design, realisation, adoption and spread of innovative medical technologies into the NHS within Lancashire.”

Dr Liz Mear, Chief Executive at the Innovation Agency, said: “The Lancashire Health Matters project will support innovative Lancashire businesses capable of moving into, or growing within, the health and care sectors with new or existing services or products.

“Lancashire Health Matters will provide mechanisms to validate the benefits of an innovation in a practical (real-world) setting, a key activity to support health system uptake. The programme will also support the region’s ambitions to address the Industrial Strategy’s Grand Challenges and wider activities.”

The Health Matters programme is delivered through a partnership between the UCLan, the Innovation Agency (the Academic Health Science Network for the North West Coast) and Lancashire Local Enterprise Partnership.