As the UK lurches into the biggest mental health crisis in living memory, depression, post- Covid isolation and increased NHS wait times are all being tackled in innovative new ways from the heart of Cornwall.
Though it may seem an unexpected destination, over the past few years Cornwall has seen a huge growth in its healthtech sector - attracting businesses from across the world. Why? With one acute care trust, one clinical commissioning group and one local authority the region is an ideal testbed for healthtech innovation, offering a streamlined entry point into the world famous NHS network.
According to Tech Nation’s annual 2021 report, there was a total of £18.3m invested in the South West healthtech sector in 2020, a 591% increase from 2019-2020 investment. Cornwall’s healthtech industry has seen a total turnover growth of over 150% since 2010 - with the business and domestic software development sector seeing the largest growth of around 922%.
Companies from across the globe have chosen Cornwall as their UK base, recognising that the region is a unique microcosm of the challenges faced by top-level healthcare providers - with diverse demographics, from students to the elderly, many of whom live in rural areas and have limited access to primary care.
Connecting communities and people to adequate care post-pandemic has never been more important and Cornwall has become a home to businesses leading the way in remote healthcare, increasing resilience to future pandemics and improving wellbeing through forward thinking technology - like depression-busting headsets and memory bank apps.
With a particularly similar demographic and geographic setup to the Nordics, it is no surprise that many of the healthcare technology solutions developed to best serve Nordic countries are also experiencing huge success in Cornwall. Swedish company Flow Neuroscience believes unlocking the science of the brain is key to understanding mental health. They have developed a headset that combines brain stimulation and behaviour therapy with the help of an app treatment programme to reduce depression and increase positive routine. They are currently working with the Healthwave team, who exist to increase digital inclusion within healthcare, and Cornwall Trade and Investment on trialling this product across Cornwall to realise its potential for the UK.
For Finnish healthtech company Klinik, the presence of Kernow Health CIC and its sandbox offering, which provides access to GPs at scale for healthtech digital research and trials, paired with the unique local challenges and opportunities made Cornwall the landing point for their international expansion. With Klinik's total triage solution, patient flow management software already deployed in 300 clinics across its home country, all they needed was to see how the same tools could be applied in the NHS, and this is what they were uniquely able to find in the region.
Saving valuable time and resources is something that Ultramed, a health tech company based in Cornwall, is passionate about. MyPreOp is an award winning online preoperative assessment program completed by patients. The information is then processed to help the clinicians decide what they need to organise to prepare the patient for their operation e.g. blood tests. By using MyPreOp up to 50% of patients are avoiding an additional trip to hospital, saving both time and carbon.
As well as trialing unique technologies for remote diagnosis, Cornwall's healthtech ecosystem has been examining ways to provide smart, safe and secure access to care homes and assisted living facilities.
eHealth Productivity and Innovation in Cornwall (EPIC) has been supporting TouchByte to enable them to demonstrate and carry out feasibility testing of their biometric facial recognition technology in real world environments. This contactless method of accessing a space with a face is currently being showcased in several care homes in Cornwall. It has also been installed in EPIC's demonstration centre at the Health and Wellbeing Innovation Centre in Truro, where stakeholders, including care providers, are able to experience the tech for themselves.
With nearly double the amount of healthtech companies in the region at the beginning of this decade than in 2010, and a growing technology community, there’s a huge hunger in Cornwall to find new ways of using exciting tech. The innovative trail of new solutions to improve mental health, cut diagnostic wait times and costs and tackle isolation will have a global impact.
Nicola Lloyd, Director of Trade and Investment, Cornwall Trade and Investment, commented: “As Cornwall’s tech sector grows, so do the possibilities for innovation within the healthcare space. Cornwall is in a unique position to help global businesses accelerate their products and thanks to the support in place there are increasingly powerful opportunities for companies to make a meaningful difference in UK healthcare, improving lives through technology.”
Oli Sleeman, Director, Healthwave: “We are seeing more and more businesses recognise Cornwall as a destination to validate their offering. Elsewhere this could take years, here the streamlined entry into the NHS means we can make huge progress in just a few months. I’m excited to work with more companies like Klinik, to make a global impact from this launchpad.”
Ben Wood, Director of Sales and Operations, Klinik Healthcare UK: “Thanks to the health tech ecosystem in Cornwall we were able to rapidly localise our solution to the UK market. We continue to work with Kernow Health CIC collaborating on new innovations and validating ideas on product development. Throughout the pandemic we have gone from operating in 5 GP practices to over 120 across the UK - it is incredible to see how technology has helped alleviate the burden of increased demand on practices - positively impacting staff morale and patient experience.”