Improving surgery through business partnership

Person working at Surgical Holdings

Less invasive laparoscopic operations are the positive outcome of a strong new ARU-business partnership in Southend, sponsored by government.

A government innovation voucher provides more than just funding for businesses to buy consultancy from a university. It also kickstarts all kinds of partnerships. In Southend one such partnership is improving the care of patients undergoing laparoscopies.

When doctors are trying to diagnose disease, they can often do so non-intrusively using different types of scan or MRI imaging. However sometimes these methods are not sufficient, and the only way is to directly study the body using a laparoscope. This involves inserting a fibre-optic instrument into the body, particularly the abdomen, to view the organs.

Anglia Ruskin has been incredibly flexible and keen to work with us. The biggest benefit to the company has been the link into a local network of surgeons.

Laparoscopy can also be used to perform small-scale surgery – with the major benefit of being less invasive than traditional surgery; the less invasive, the less damage to the body and the faster we recover.

Surgical Holdings is a family-run business based in Southend-on-Sea that has been successfully supplying instruments used in laparoscopy to the NHS and the private healthcare sector since 1988. They manufacture high-quality surgical instruments, implants and various associated products. As a local manufacturer, the company wanted to work more with the local Essex hospital network in order to improve their product offering and develop potential future partnership opportunities. They saw an opportunity to work with medical professionals at Anglia Ruskin's ICENI Centre in Colchester that would help them achieve these goals.

Managing Director Daniel Coole was first introduced to Anglia Ruskin by Professor Tony Young, who is both a Consultant Urological Surgeon at Southend University Hospital and Director of Medical Innovation at the University.

ARU: access to funding

'Tony introduced us to the MedTech Campus concept which, as an SME in the medical device sector we firmly support. We presented on behalf of the SME MedTech sector at the MedTech Campus launch back in 2012 at the House of Commons. We have accessed a number of funding programmes as a result of the relationship with Anglia Ruskin: the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Low Carbon MedTech programme, ERDF Low Carbon KEEP and most recently the Business Southend Innovation Voucher, funded by the Regional Growth Fund.'

The Government-sponsored Regional Growth Fund (RGF) was designed to support eligible projects and programmes raising private sector investment to create economic growth and lasting environment.

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council was awarded grant funding through Regional Growth Fund to support businesses in Southend and the surrounding area. This support took the form of business grants, full-funded workshops and innovation vouchers - all with the aim of creating and safeguarding jobs in the local economy.

Accessing specialist expertise

It was thanks to an innovation voucher, worth up to £5,000, from Business Southend that Surgical Holdings was able to access specialist expertise through Anglia Ruskin's academic consultancy service. This consisted of a focus group and feedback from surgeons of differing expertise on their perception of Surgical Holding's products and the information provided.

Support with funding application

'We wanted to work with experts in the field of laparoscopic surgery,' explains Daniel. 'Tan Arulampalam and Roger Motson, are not only Directors of Anglia Ruskin’s ICENI Centre for Laparoscopic Surgery, but are also practising clinicians who are keen to work in partnership with local businesses. The Business Services Team helped us apply for an innovation voucher that could be used to subsidise an academic consultancy project.'

The consultancy was provided by the ICENI Centre who ran a training session for our sales team. This gave them a greater understanding of the surgical instruments they were selling and increased their ability to empathise with our customers the clinicians. By accessing the ICENI’s surgical simulation centre, our sales team could also experience first-hand what it’s like for surgeons to perform a laparoscopy, gaining a deeper insight into their world, making them better sales people.

Daniel adds: 'The ICENI Centre also ran an NHS Never Event workshop for us. A Never Event is a serious incident that occurs that should be wholly preventable, for example wrong site surgery, or a retained instrument post operation. Understanding what goes into avoiding a ‘Never Event’ gives good insight into what it’s like to work in surgical theatre. We were also able to sponsor one of their one-day training courses in surgical skills. It was an opportunity to interact with surgeons and display our instruments at the event too.'

'Anglia Ruskin has been incredibly flexible and keen to work with us. The biggest benefit to our company has been the link into a local network of surgeons. This has helped us establish greater credibility within the marketplace, as well as extra sales in general surgical instruments. Looking to the future, we hope to run another focus group with the ICENI Centre and use Anglia Ruskin’s Clinical Trial Unit for some future innovations.'

Find out more

Find out more about Anglia Ruskin’s academic consultancy service online or contact our Business Development Manager Tom Bates on 01223 695878.