Cornwall; The UK’s New Gateway for Digital Healthcare

Kush Boparai | 26 Nov 2020 | General

When many think of Cornwall they often reminisce about their idyllic childhood holidays spending the day on one of the beautiful beaches, enjoying fresh seafood and perhaps indulging in the odd ice cream and a world-famous Cornish pasty. However, Cornwall is constantly reinventing itself from a global centre of mining tin and copper until the mid-late 20th century to becoming a modern and world-famous tourist destination. However, de-industrialisation has left its mark on the region in the late 20th century and Cornwall is now in another period of transformation leading the way for UK’s digital and green economy. With the help of over £700m of EU funding it now boasts some of the best superfast fibre coverage and speeds in the country and has recently had the UK government’s endorsement to become a national centre for floating offshore wind power. This new Cornwall is also embracing its heritage, in part due to materials needed for new technology products is fostering the resurgence of a sustainable mining sector. Throw in the world class surf, artisanal coffee shops, boutiques and bars within hipster enclaves in the likes of St Ives and Newquay, you have a cleaner, healthier and more picturesque version of Shoreditch, on-sea. All this within a one-hours flight from London, straight to the recently opened airport in Newquay.

Another exciting industry that is emerging within Cornwall is the digital healthcare ecosystem and over the last year OCO Global have had the pleasure of partnering with Cornwall’s Trade and Investment team to shine a spotlight on this sector and bring interest to the region from the best foreign start-ups looking at engaging with the UK healthcare market.

When Non-UK digital healthcare start-ups would only look to London, or perhaps Birmingham or Manchester to expand. However, the NHS is bamboozling at the best of times for foreign companies to navigate, with a workforce of 1.3 million people, just below the headcount of the People’s Liberation Army of China and with more staff than the Indian Railways. The NHS consists of multiple organisations, different trusts, CCGs, CQC, NICE and a myriad of other acronyms that are impossible for a start-up to decipher, let alone engage.

Having worked with digital healthcare companies over the last five years the story of many digital healthcare start-ups entering the UK is all too familiar. A start-up comes to the UK with a revolutionary healthcare solution with the intention of working with the world-famous NHS and is at first very enthusiastic and prepared to knock on as many doors as needed until they receive a positive response. However, far too many times foreign start-ups fail to even find the right doors to try and soon run out of the funds and patience, finally becoming disillusioned with the convoluted UK system and often moves on to tackle another market.

Our work with Cornwall is around changing the narrative. Cornwall’s healthcare environment is simplified, unlike big cities and other larger regions it benefits from having one local authority, one NHS Trust and one Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and with just over 550,000 people. It also has an ageing population, rural, coastal and island communities, as well as larger towns and cities and because of this it acts as a microcosm of the UK, so a perfect place to test and launch a digital healthcare solution.

Start-ups and larger companies within digital healthcare are of course attracted to the NHS because of its global brand, however, will only stay and invest long-term when they receive support to obtain quality patient data, clinical feedback and a roadmap to access opportunities within the UK healthcare environment.

The project with Cornwall Trade and Investment is about addressing this need whilst learning about the region’s diverse environment and healthcare issues to develop and promoting what this fantastic region offers. Cornwall provides a unique opportunity to engage with the NHS to test and work directly with clinicians and researchers working within the NHS. Our work is about matching what Cornwall needs to solutions across the globe, taking this approach we decided to focus our search and screening to start-ups with solutions around remote healthcare, AI solutions for triaging, patient monitoring, screening and communications and technology to assist elderly care.

Over the last seven to eight months we managed to have over 150 hours’ worth of in-depth conversations with digital healthcare SMEs from across the globe and introduced 45 companies to our Trade and Investment partners in Cornwall. We have worked to help create an innovation pipeline across multiple regional channels, such as the Kernow Health NHS digital test bed , Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust, the innovation in healthcare programme at Plymouth University (EPIC) and the South West’s Academic Health Science Network (SWAHSN).

Coronavirus has accelerated our efforts and one hugely positive outcome from this horrendous pandemic has been that it has refocused our attention on protecting, supporting, and improving the NHS. Technology is now seen as a necessity rather than a luxury, as it is this that has kept our healthcare system running, even from home. As Gary Jennings from Kernow Health succinctly puts it

We at OCO Global feel proud to be able to work on such a meaningful project with our partners in the CTI and with all of the innovation leaders within the healthcare ecosystem in Cornwall to help position this special region as the digital gateway to the NHS.

If you are interested to learn more about how OCO Global can assist your region to develop and attract world class businesses or help your own businesses expand internationally, please contact us.

For more information about our work in Cornwall please get in touch with Kush Boparai –, or go to Cornwall Trade & Investment and for further insight, please listen to this recent podcast, featuring healthcare leaders from the region, Unplugged Cornwall .