01 Feb 2022
by Alex Lawrence

Digital Innovation in the Life Sciences Industry

On Thursday 27th January, techUK hosted a roundtable welcoming over 20 thought leaders and experts from across the health ecosystem, encompassing digital technology providers, Pharma, digital therapeutics, and public sector stakeholders including the Office for Life Sciences, Health Data Research UK, Genomics England and MHRA.

The roundtable was a fantastic opportunity for individuals from several viewpoints within the wider health environment to come together and share forward-thinking ideas and solutions, as well as to gain a sense of the current state of play in other pockets of the industry.

This is an exciting time for the life sciences market, as Pharma companies look to expand their portfolios and move ‘beyond the pill’. techUK is working with members to help ensure this sector is able to collaborate and partner with the digital health ecosystem as productively as possible, sharing learnings and best practice.

Key insights

1. Many challenges are not sector-specific

It was clear that challenges faced by digital therapeutics companies, Pharma and health technology providers are largely shared. The barriers faced around piloting and implementation, equitable take up, measuring outcomes, and proving cost efficiency, were obstacles that many of the industry representatives in attendance had faced.

techUK will seek to extend the work we have done to improve the digital health marketplace and champion an ecosystem approach into the life sciences space. Our partnerships with NHS Digital and NHSX have focussed on reducing the complexities of standards, frameworks, and procurement processes, making the route to market simpler and more conducive to innovation for healthtech providers.

In working jointly across both industries and in partnership with the NHS and health data organisations, the digital life sciences marketplace can be nurtured more effectively.

“This was a great example of how techUK are able to empower organisations and companies to learn, share, collaborate and shape the next steps in our collective journey.”

Liz Ashall-Payne, Vice-Chair of the techUK Health and Social Care Council


2. Partnerships are critical to the ecosystem

Conversations around data-sharing led to a broader discussion of the wider ecosystem that ties together digital health and Pharma. It was clear that there is a need for a network that can serve the many aspects needed to achieve both safe and trusted, but also rapid and innovative research and innovation in an integrated way.

Partnerships are critical to the journey being taken by Pharma and digital health. With the NHS landscape so complex, there is a lack of clarity around what the unmet need is, and where the decision-making power lies. As Integrated Care Systems continue to shape and transform the landscape over the next year, understanding their priorities in this agenda will be key.

“It was clear that joint working and cross sector collaboration was seen by all as the only way to solve some of the major national, and indeed global, health challenges. The Life Science industry representatives expressed a desire to partner with external innovators and the scientific research community, and digital technologies are not only able to transform how the life science industry works in areas such as clinical trials, but can help identify & reach patients to support them “beyond the pill”, aiding prevention, early diagnosis and treatment.”

Alex Eavis, Chief Product Officer, Digital, Data, Analytics & Pharmacy


techUK will aim to formulate a structure in which both industries can access and feed into the policy environment and changes to market as these changes take place across the NHS.

3. There is a gap for a platform that can connect multiple bodies

Many different organisations have emerged in the health data space, including HDR UK and Genomics England, and both Pharma and the digital health industry are developing an improved understanding of how best to work with them. Building insight within industry around how these organisations work and the constraints they face is essential.

Connecting health data organisations to digital health and Pharma is one aspect of a complex network of industry partners and public sector organisations which, through multi-way collaboration, can help tackle some of the crises facing the NHS right now.

techUK provides a platform for these industries and bodies to work together and connect the chain of functions needed to improve care for patients and help the NHS. Collating the available innovation best-practice partnerships, and then distributing this with partners like NHSX to demonstrate what is going on across industry, will be key.

Joining techUK is a great opportunity for Bayer to continue to enhance its plans beyond our scientific expertise and to fully embrace the potential of digital to support us in delivering innovative therapies to patients quickly and as efficiently as possible. However, we can’t do this alone and need to form strong and effective partnerships, therefore we look forward to networking and collaborating with techUK members to harness digital health technology to underpin the life sciences sector in the UK and to best support the NHS.

Nigel Brokenshire, Head of Digital Health, UK


Next steps

techUK will continue to hold market engagement sessions to explore digital innovation in life sciences, examining:

  • Fostering the health data environment
  • Fostering partnerships – what are the preconditions each industry needs?
  • Working with the NHS
  • AI and digital therapeutics
  • Innovation versus regulation  

To get involved with techUK’s work in life sciences, please contact [email protected]


Alex Lawrence

Alex Lawrence

Programme Manager, Health and Social Care, techUK