Did you know the Harrogate district is a key player in the health-tech ecosystem?


The proportional employment rate in health-tech for the Harrogate district is over double the average for the Yorkshire & Humber region. 27 people in every 1,000 employed in the district, work in health-tech. That’s perhaps a surprise.

You might also be surprised to read that Harrogate district has one of the highest proportional rates of health-tech ecosystem businesses in Yorkshire & Humber.

You might now be thinking, hang on, what is ‘health-tech’? According to the World Health Organisation, “Health Technology is the application of organised knowledge and skills in the form of devices, medicines, vaccines, procedures and systems developed to solve a health problem and improve quality of lives”.

A recent study, completed by consultants Perspective Economics, established what the sector looks like in our region, what the capability, capacity and potential of the sector is, and realise how business, NHS and universities could collaborate to enable future growth. For the purposes of the study, the sector includes med-tech, digital health and bio-pharma. The study was commissioned in late 2019 by West Yorkshire Combined Authority, Harrogate Borough Council, City of York Council, Bradford Council and Leeds City Council.

The study had a number of key findings –

  1. High number of health-tech businesses in the Harrogate district. The Harrogate district already has one of the highest proportional rates of health-tech ecosystem businesses in Yorkshire & Humber. The 5th highest rate per 1,000 businesses in the region. Of the sub-sectors within health-tech, the number of med-tech (medical technology) businesses is particularly high (4th in Yorkshire & Humber).
  2. High employment rate from health-tech businesses. The proportional employment rate in health-tech for the Harrogate district is over double the average for Yorkshire & Humber. 27 people in every 1000 employed work in health-tech. This is mainly driven by the inclusion of the bio-pharma sector (which includes international research organisation Covance). This is reiterated in the tabling of the ‘Top 20 health sector business’ by revenue, with Covance at #17.
  3. High level of research funding awarded in Yorkshire & Humber region. Significant levels of research funding which has been awarded to organisations in the Yorkshire & Humber region, since 2006. Per head of population, the region has received the highest proportion of research funding outside London, £278m since 2006.
  4. One of the main challenges the report identified is the ability of businesses to access the health sector market. A survey of businesses identified how difficult it is ‘to sell into the NHS’. This often means smaller businesses have to slot into wider supply chains in order to achieve market penetration. This does not easily allow the development or testing of new products or services. An academic partnership has agreed to work on this and establish a clearer route to market for innovation.
  5. Health-tech sector generates high revenue and potential for growth. The study found that 8% of the Digital Health businesses in Yorkshire & Humber, and 7.8% of employees in the sector, are in the Harrogate district. These businesses and employees generate 13.8% of the Digital Health sector revenue in Yorkshire & Humber (the 3rd highest local authority area). The Digital Health sector is identified as being a key area for growth with the wide ranging potential impact in use of client health records, healthcare provider communications, lab and diagnostic image management, and also telemedicine (of which Inhealthcare, based in Harrogate is seen as a market leader).

Looking to future growth of health-tech in the region, the study outlines suggested actions for development in this key growth business sector.

Here’s how Co-Lab Harrogate can support that growth -

Procurement and supply chain activity is seen as a key challenge for product and service development, with processes and procedures perceived as a barrier to market. By helping private sector businesses work more closely with NHS and research universities, Co-Lab can help accelerate the creation of solutions which improve lives.

As is the case for many types of business, access to finance and infrastructure is a challenge to be overcome for the development of companies in health-tech. By providing dedicated support for digital and tech businesses at Co-Lab, more companies could access solutions and be better prepared for raising finance. Harrogate Borough Council owned land and properties could also facilitate mechanisms for improved connectivity to enable investment in new technology such as ‘low power’ networks (LPWAN and/or LoRaWan).

Accessing talent is a challenge for many health-tech businesses. Harrogate Borough Council has recently adopted a Skills for Growth Action Plan which will develop skills projects to train and retain local talent. By defining a health-tech skills needs, when engaging with training and education providers then the qualitative data from this study provides real evidence to support the future curriculum offer.

Co-Lab will be a catalyst for helping to develop and evolve the health-tech sector. If you are interested in being involved then contact us on hello@harrogateco-lab.co.uk or call Alistair Forbes on 01423 556744.