The UK and Creating an Innovative Health-Tech Culture

Imagine a near-infinite improbability drive that takes common, raw materials and transforms them into a conveyor belt of wealth-creating products and services. 

Once you owed such a device, you would do everything you could to preserve and protect it. The improbability drive I refer to is “innovation” and the UK was once good at it for healthcare. 

From penicillin to the smallpox vaccine, the UK has a long history of punching above its weight in the field of healthcare innovation. Unfortunately, we have ceded that lead, in part, due to an increasingly hostile culture towards health-tech entrepreneurs.

Here’s why. Innovation is the result of trial and error by tinkerers, often preceding our scientific understanding. It proliferates in decentralized environments where people are free to think, experiment and speculate. It is almost always bottom-up rather than top-down.

The first challenge is the UK’s centralized approach to healthcare that optimizes for low cost at the expense of innovation and spends 20% less per capita on healthcare than the OECD average.

A lack of willingness to invest in innovative health-tech projects coupled with bureaucratic decision-making has created an environment of limited opportunity for new upstarts. The result has been a brain drain of the best and brightest health-tech entrepreneurs migrating to more innovation-friendly markets.

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