The world will come together at the Arab Health conference later this month and, after the political turmoil of the last few years, the UK’s increased political stability and ambitious research and development targets mean this this is a good opportunity for investors to drive innovation in the health industry.
It is now clear that the UK is not going to become a de-regulatory competitor to the EU, so the government’s focus must be on improving UK attractiveness to both inward investment and exporters. Partnerships in the Gulf region are vital to help bring innovation to market or scale, and to grow exports.
The likely GCC-UK trade deal is a clear priority for the UK Government and, outside the political sphere, investors looking to the UK find themselves in a strong position, too. Investment into the UK has slowed significantly since 2016, and UK assets are relatively cheap.
In the area of MedTech specifically, research from the ABHI in November 2022 showed that three quarters of the HealthTech industry believed that the UK will no longer be seen as a priority internationally, while only 17% of HealthTech companies believed the UK is taking an ambitious approach in the development of a sovereign system.
But as the UK emerges from a period of political instability, the country’s fundamental strengths in innovation, research and development remains. Last year, the UK government announced its largest-ever research and development budget, investing nearly £40 billion by 2025 to drive forward the nation’s ambitions to be a science superpower. This is in addition to £260 million of UK government funding announced last year for healthcare research, development and manufacturing.
As part of this ever-expanding landscape, there are opportunities now in rapidly-growing areas like HealthTech, life sciences and net zero tech, alongside traditional strengths such as financial services, professional services, creative industries and defence.
These could be fruitful areas of potential partnership for Gulf economies, helping to meet some of their economic and social aims for a more sustainable, higher skills base in their economies, whilst driving wider spread improvements in healthcare.
Some companies have already started to capitalise on this opportunity. The Department for International Trade recently opened the UK export market to Qatar for the supply of vitamins and supplements, enabling internationally-recognised companies like Holland & Barrett to export products. Back in 2007, Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai became the first overseas branch of the London-based hospital, and has since become one of the region’s leading eye care institutions. And in 2020, the Department for International Trade and the Office for Investment delivered the £800 million UK-UAE Sovereign Investment Partnership in life sciences.
Paul Benton, ABHI’s Managing Director, International, added:
“Via Arab Health, we have been coming to the Middle East for the past two decades, and the one thing you notice is just how highly regarded the UK’s life sciences sector is within the region. HealthTech is a growth industry, and through enhanced trade links between the UK and the Gulf, more patients can benefit from life enhancing, and often life saving, technologies. Arab Health really is the ideal platform to showcase this, and we are looking forward to supporting the UK group once again and hearing from experts like Lexington on how these collaborations are developing.”
Paul McGrade, former EU policy adviser to two British Prime Ministers and now Senior Counsel at Lexington, one of the UK’s leading strategic consultancies, said:
“A partnership between the United Kingdom and the Gulf region is a win win for both, driving innovation and improvements in healthcare at a critical time whilst also providing a skills boost. The UK is moving into a period of greater political stability and regulatory predictability, making this a good time to invest in driving research in key sectors like health and life sciences.”
Experts from Lexington will be exploring these themes as part of their presentation, Driving future healthcare partnerships between the Gulf and UK, at the UK Healthcare Pavilion on Wednesday 1st February from 13.00 - 13.30. Hall 2.
 “Government announces plans for largest ever R&D budget,” Gov.uk, 14 March 2022, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-announces-plans-for-largest-ever-rd-budget
 “£260 million to boost healthcare research and manufacturing,” Gov.uk, 2 March 2022, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/260-million-to-boost-healthcare-research-and-manufacturing