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Representatives of the British Consulate-General, which is looking to expand its bio and health technology investments, met Wisconsin companies on Tuesday for a luncheon to explore opportunities for collaboration.
"We're looking for companies with complimentary products or complimentary technologies," said Frank Phillips, vice consul for the Chicago office of the British Consulate-General
. "Oftentimes the partnership can leverage their products. Wisconsin companies that want to go to Europe will find partners in the UK that will help them penetrate the markets more easily than if they were to set up their own sales and distribution network."
Intended as a two-way networking opportunity for Wisconsin companies and the UK Trade & Investment Group of the British Consulate-General, the luncheon provided networking opportunities and a look at U.K. life-science interests.
Jim Leonhart, executive vice president of the Wisconsin Biotechnology and Medical Device Association
, hoped the event, which the association hosted, would establish direct relationships between member companies and counterparts within the United Kingdom.
The British National Health Service is expanding extensively. For example, the service has embarked on an $11 billion initiative to convert hospitals across the country to electronic medical records. The British representatives present on Tuesday expressed interest in a wide range of opportunities in biotech and life sciences.
Phillips and his colleagues are working to promote the Midwest as a whole, not just Madison and surrounds. He said British companies "generally have an almost instinctive draw to the northeast and to California," which Wisconsin and the other Midwestern states will have to join together to compete with. The Midwest will need to market itself as a region, Phillips said, in order to gain enough recognition to attract potential partners from the UK.
"We're trying to think in a macroeconomic climate, as opposed to individual companies or products," said Alice Pomponio, U.S. life sciences and health-care adviser for the Chicago office. "From a Europe-wide and from a global perspective, the UK leads. It looks at the life sciences holistically, rather than just in splintered terms. ... One group makes all of the important decisions."
Phillips, Pomponio and Rafe Courage, consul for trade and investment for the Chicago office, all have 13-state areas in which they look for companies that might make good partners with the UK. Courage and Phillips have been tracking the companies in the Midwest region for some time, and have become very interested in the region especially in the Madison area, due to its long history of commercializing patent technology, but not exclusively.
"It comes back to the companies," Courage said. "They have to be at a stage of development where they can have their eyes opened to an opportunity. We'd like one or two to work with as a test case, since a large amount of this work is to create a sort of comfort zone so that others will follow."
One company starting to forge such ties is NeoClone
The Madison-based university spinoff that makes monoclonal antibodies antibodies that are all the same, making them useful in studies for biotech firms.
"We've already got established relationships with private companies with in the UK right now, but meetings like this are important to continue to build and look for opportunities in that area," said Deven McGlenn, NeoClone's CEO.
Leonhart said directors from Canada, China and European countries will visit on May 23 for more discussion of Wisconsin collaboration.
The British Consulate's representatives are also getting ready to roll out more chances for building alliances.
"We're interested in identifying Midwest companies which are looking for opportunities to find partners in a very efficient and less expensive way than if you were to have to do it on your own," Phillips said. "We have 3 or 4 major events coming up. What we want to hear back is what the Midwest's needs are, and how we can fill them."