University of Birmingham Enterprise,  Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise (GBSLEP)  and  West Midlands Combined Authority have announced the launch of Unit 9 –  a new medical technology incubator that provides flexible, low-cost facilities for medical research, proof of concept and prototyping activity. 

Unit 9 is a short-term incubator that is intended to bridge the gap for young companies that need space, equipment and facilities, but do not have the funding for initial capital equipment. 

This new space will directly support the West Midlands’ aspiration to lead in medical innovation , through helping companies that are looking to develop innovative devices, medicines, procedures, or systems to solve a health problem or improve quality of life. Through growing industries around these activities, it will contribute to retaining businesses and talent in the region. 

David Coleman, CEO of University of Birmingham Enterprise, said: “The West Midlands has strengths that are the building blocks for future health innovation – expertise in digital healthcare and health data, anchor businesses in diagnostics and testing, and a strong track record in manufacturing medical devices.  The Midlands produces medical innovation, but there is no short-term incubation specifically for early-stage medical technology companies, so the region risks losing these innovative young companies, and the jobs and training opportunities they could provide.”

David Hardman, Interim Deputy Chair, Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) said: “Scaling up start-up businesses is critical to delivering GBSLEP’s mission to drive inclusive, sustainable growth.  From our regular engagement with businesses, we understand how important it is for growing medical technology businesses to have access to good space and talent. That’s why Unit 9 will play an important role in strengthening this region’s reputation in supporting growth businesses in this sector.”

Dr Jamie Elliott, Innovation Lead for West Midlands Combined Authority, said: “The Unit 9 incubator is a fantastic initiative supported through the West Midlands Innovation Programme. Analysis of the sector identified a clear need for short-term laboratory space and the pilot incubator was endorsed by the West Midlands Innovation Board. This initiative strengthens our innovation ecosystem and supports the region’s ambitions of growing the health and medical technology cluster.  I hope that proposals coming forward for the regional Innovation Accelerator will build on this initiative and generate further capabilities in this area.”

Unit 9 is based at the Birmingham Research Park, a location that provides easy access to both the University campus and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.  Tenants will also benefit from business support provided by University of Birmingham Enterprise, an equipment-sharing agreement with the University of Birmingham, and facilities for cell culture or microbiology work at the BioHub Birmingham®.

Companies applying for a tenancy at Unit 9 need not have a formal business plan but will be expected to articulate their future plans and ambitions during the application process. 

The licence fee is based on an escalator rent model that matches commercial rents by year three.  The pricing model provides a realistic timeframe for companies to finesse their businesses and meet development milestones.  GBSLEP’s Growth Hub business support specialists will work with companies so they can transition their operations to a new base within the West Midlands region at the end of the licence period.  Data-driven health and life sciences is one of GBSLEP’s key priority areas in delivering inclusive and sustainable economic growth.