Government support is needed to commercialise engineering methods used in medical device production if the UK is to compete in the world market, a report by the Royal Academy of Engineering has concluded.
The report, produced for the interdisciplinary UK Focus Group for biomedical engineering, says the UK is lagging behind because many key technology areas fall between traditional science, medicine and engineering disciplines.
Support for medical engineering products could be more cost-effective than supporting the pharmaceutical industry, it claims.
The global market for medical devices, ranging from anaesthetic delivery systems to artificial joints, is valued at £44bn, growing at 10% a year. But the UK market is worth only £2.5bn, with a growth rate of 5%.
Lack of a home market is due to poor government investment in the National Health Service, says the report. Manufacturers are reluctant to take on the task of evaluating and developing ideas for new equipment emerging from research laboratories. But it conceded that it is not the role of the NHS to fund development studies.
The report calls on the Government to review the role of the NHS to ensure a more productive working relationship with academia and industry.