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Case Study

Smith & Nephew

Smith & Nephew is a leading medical technology company, operating in around 100 countries globally. Its Advanced Wound Management portfolio provides a comprehensive set of products to meet complex clinical needs, helping healthcare professionals get closer to zero human and economic consequences of wounds, and its Hull site manufactures some of the world’s most advanced wound care products.

Challenge

The NHS spends almost as much on wound care every year (£5.3 billion) as on cancer (£5.6 billion)*. An ageing population and the significant rise in diabetes and obesity mean that wound care represents a considerable global burden.

Despite heavy investment by the Wound Care industry over the last 20 years, 15 - 20% of long term chronic wounds remain unhealed after a year and this has changed little over that time period. The economic cost to the world’s hard-pressed health care systems is unsupportable in the long term. The human cost and pressure on families of those living with non-healing wounds are huge. 

Smith & Nephew’s goal is to equip health care professionals with products that get these wounds healed and people back to life unlimited.

*Institute for Pressure Injury Prevention

Approach

A five-year framework was agreed in July 2016 between Smith & Nephew and the University of Hull, with a predicted co-investment of £3 million. The aim of the partnership is to drive research into pioneering approaches to advanced wound care. Leading the collaboration on behalf of the University of Hull is Professor Matthew Hardman, who brings more than 20 years' experience in the field of skin biology, with a specific focus on wound healing.

The partnership has established a team of experts charged with developing scientific insights and innovative treatments that will benefit patients. Together, the University and Smith & Nephew have created one of the world’s largest Wound Care Research Clusters, combining world-leading academia and industry with the aim of developing scientific insights and innovative treatments for advanced wound care.

Benefits

As part of this investment, five multi-disciplinary PhD studentships are progressing, and there have already been 19 individual research projects. All are examples where the University, through its applied research, is working with Smith & Nephew to develop innovative approaches to wound healing.

Professor Hardman is now regarded as a trusted and influential member of the Smith & Nephew Innovation team. The partnership has fed into the development in Hull of Smith & Nephew’s Research & Development Centre of Excellence for the Global Wound Management Division, which opened enhanced facilities in May 2017, specialising in a number of areas including clinical sciences, engineering, chemistry and microbiology. 

The Smith & Nephew Hull R&D hub attracts major funding from within the company, and this recent period of Innovation and Research has been Smith & Nephew’s most prolific in the last twenty years or so, with multiple technology platforms in early and late stage development.

Future developments

Smith & Nephew and the University of Hull continue to collaborate on new projects. 

Smith & Nephew actively recruits graduates from the University of Hull, as well as offering student placements. Over the last five years, Smith & Nephew has nearly trebled the size of the R&D and clinical teams at the site and the largest single source of graduate recruitment to Smith & Nephew in Hull is through Hull University.

The University of Hull has recruited a new Wound Healing lecturer to the Hull York Medical School, and Smith & Nephew were involved in the shortlisting and interviews. Continued investment will consolidate Hull as a leading hub for wound research. In addition, the partnership is exploring the feasibility of Smith & Nephew staff undertaking PhDs at Hull.

“Our shared goal is to create a rolling programme aimed at changing wound care management across the world, and, as a consequence, change individuals’ lives. I am not aware of any group anywhere that is doing this as well as the University of Hull. We are thrilled that the University shares our passion for the importance of advancing wound care, translating this into technologies that can be easily used across the world. This partnership is combining the brightest minds with access to the finest R&D facilities with that purpose front of mind. These are exciting days!” Stewart McKinlay Vice President of Research & Innovation at Smith & Nephew