The spike in demand for medical equipment and PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) in response to the global pandemic has exposed the UK reliance on Chinese imports, putting the UK manufacturing supply chain in the spotlight. The response from the medical companies and the UK government is creating opportunity to reshore manufacturing work to achieve a level of agility and resilience in the face of global uncertainty.
A recent study reported in the PharmaTimes online (http://www.pharmatimes.com/web_exclusives/Building_a_domestic_manufacturing_capacity_1341929) makes a well-constructed argument for building a domestic manufacturing capacity, pointing out the key issues and proposing actions. Sourcing PPE from China has resumed but the over-reliance of UK on China has been exposed during the pandemic and the government is developing a strategy through its ‘Project Defend’ (see below).
The medical device industry alongside the PPE manufacturers have faced enormous challenges over the past months and the fragility of supply chains are attracting scrutiny in the USA, Europe, and the UK. This piece published online (https://www.medgadget.com/2020/06/the-impact-of-covid-19-on-the-medical-device-industry.html) provides a clear analysis of the issues, fully referenced. It also highlights the role played by Additive Manufacture / 3D-Printing during the surge in demand for PPE, striking a cautionary note regarding the performance of equipment which has not gone through established extensive testing. This piece also makes a clear case for reshoring production capability to ensure the UK can manufacture vaccine delivery for COVID-19 when one is available, otherwise waiting for others to supply it.
Currently we know that ‘Project defend’ was set up in May tasked with identifying Britain’s main economic vulnerabilities to potentially hostile foreign governments as part of a broader new approach to national security, led by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. The aim is to diversify supply lines to no longer depend on individual countries for non-food essentials. The Prime Minister has said he would take steps to protect Britain’s technological base, with the government review also expected to include personal protective equipment and drugs. There is no detail available on progress, strategy, or timelines. It is also unclear how the project task force will engage with stakeholders to best inform their decisions. The GTMA are seeking an opportunity to make a positive contribution to this initiative.
The GTMA medical cluster has delivered services into the CPAP device and many of the GTMA members have supported the UK Ventilator challenge as part of their existing Client arrangements through aerospace and motorsport supply chains. Most recently the Medical Cluster has aligned with the call from a team at Imperial College to produce vaccine transport packaging/housings. With NDA’s in place this work is now underway. As we move forwards the Cluster is well placed with a proven track record to attract further enquiries.
(Images courtesy of James Tye / UCL)