The NHS Commissioning Board is looking to establish a health informatics technology cluster in Leeds where start-ups can get cheap office space.
Tim Kelsey, NHS CB national director for patients and information, said in a statement to eHealth Insider: “We are working with partners including other NHS organisations, local authorities, universities and charities to explore the establishment of a health informatics technology cluster in Leeds.
“This would be something like an enterprise zone, with an online service bringing together suppliers from the technology industries with prospective customers.
"[They] would work together to encourage innovation in emerging and start-up companies through financial incentives, low-cost accommodation, business mentoring and technical direction.”
Head of healthcare at Intellect, Jon Lindberg, said few people were aware of the idea before Kelsey announced it at the Healthcare Efficiency through Technology expo this month.
“My understanding is that it’s something they discussed briefly just before he spoke, but it’s an idea that’s been around a long time,” he said.
Lindberg said it is good that Kelsey is “shaking things up” and anything that helps start-ups and small companies is welcome.
“Leeds is where a lot of NHS IT has been sitting for the last few years so there are a lot of people up there who can hopefully be supportive and lend a hand,” he said.
While a number of companies are already based around Leeds, small companies tend to centre themselves near big established ones, or near a trust that they have a relationship already.
Customers would therefore need to be involved in the project for it to succeed.
However, Lindberg foresaw a danger that the technology cluster will draw focus away from other more immediately important projects.
He pointed out that there are already between 350-400 healthcare IT companies operating in a market that is “extremely difficult to get into.”
“My question back to Tim would be, ‘you help these start-ups get up and running, but what do you do when they want to go commercial and face contract terms that say you have to have £10m turnovers for the past three years?'”
He said this barrier prevents many small companies from competing and is being worked on by Intellect, the Department of Health and the NHS CB.
© 2012 EHealth Media.
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