The medical and pharmaceutical meetings sector in the UK is going from strength to strength after addressing the challenges of more stringent regulations, as Ellie Evans discovers.
A wealth of local expertise, ease of access and no-frills venues are helping UK cities to win major international medical events and pharmaceutical congresses.
“Medical conference planners from all over the world continue to choose London for their events due to our global talent pool, world-leading medical research and exceptional academic speakers and companies,” says Tracy Halliwell MBE, Director of Tourism, Conventions & Major Events at London & Partners.
With four of the world’s top 20 universities for life sciences in the region, and over 350 medtech companies based in the capital, it’s little surprise life science conferences play a major part in ExCeL London’s strategy.
A dedicated Healthcare Champion on-site
“National and international medical and pharmaceutical congresses are a key and growing part of ExCeL London’s overall events portfolio, and we have specialist teams working in this sector,” confirms James Rees, executive director – conference and events.
The European Association for the Study of the Liver will return to London next year for a five-day congress for 10,000 attendees, while 30,000 delegates are expected to attend the European Society of Cardiology’s conference in 2021, the world’s largest gathering of leaders in cardiovascular medicine.
For smaller events, Lucie Ashley, senior venue sourcing executive for Ashfield Meetings and Events, recommends the Pullman London St Pancras Hotel and Novotel London West, explaining: "For the Pullman, we have a strong, existing working relationship and we know they are very pharma-focused. In fact, they have a dedicated events team trained to be aware of all pharmaceutical compliance requirements, which is a real plus."
With a modern interior that sets it apart, the hotel's 17 meeting rooms across different floors allow for large plenaries along with breakout spaces. "Their newly re-designed meetings rooms along with state-of-the-art technology are perfect for large conferences. In addition, the hotel is obviously in a prime location, well-connected to Kings Cross with access to three major train hubs both nationally and internationally."
She also praised Novotel London West, listed on the Healthcare-Venues directory with a dedicated Healthcare Champion on-site. "As part of this, they offered to work in line with spend caps on meals and can work with specific billing instructions which supports pharma’s transfer of value requirements. The venue also offered private areas for delegate catering – including breakfast which is a rarity: this private element would also enable our clients to use company branding throughout the conference," adds Lucie.
"If you're looking for a meeting space in London, I always recommend the Radisson Blu Edwardian group: they have their own dedicated healthcare rep and have assessed each of their properties to make sure they are aligned to the needs of the code, so they would be my go-to venue,” says Shirley Rhodes, Operations and Events Director at McCullough Moore.
“They are four-star hotels, most of which have been awarded Gold Green Tourism Award and which tend to be near good transport links and they have a professional feel about them; they're a bit boutiquey with great food, so work really well for something like an advisory board meeting.”
In Cambridge, the Biomedical Campus is undergoing a major expansion, putting it on track to become one of the world’s leading biomedical centres by 2020. “Medical conference organisers can tap into local intellectual capital at the university and at the many clusters of knowledge at the science and technology parks, Addenbrooke’s Hospital and the new Biomedical Campus; the opportunities for collaboration and peer-to-peer networking are outstanding," says Kelly Vickers, Managing Director, Meet Cambridge.
Helping academics, professionals, researchers and business leaders to create successful bids has been a key feature of the winning strategy by NewcastleGateshead Convention Bureau, with Northumbria University and Newcastle University: their conference ambassador programme works with nearly 100 ambassadors, more than half of whom specialise in health and life sciences.
And the West Midlands Growth Company has relaunched its own ambassador's programme, recently hosting a dinner for life science professionals in conjunction with the ICC and all six of the region’s universities.
The ICC Birmingham hosted a number of major events this year including the 1,000-delegate British Society for Rheumatology conference in April and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health's event in May, for 1,500 delegates.
In the region, “I highly rate the De Vere East Midlands Conference Centre in Nottingham, which offers a great space with a built-in auditorium and AV, and the De Vere Orchard Hotel next to it: it's an eco-friendly hotel with high standards of sustainability. The conference centre has free parking and it's really easy to find on the university campus,” adds McCullough Moore’s Shirley Rhodes.
“Also in the Midlands, the Nottingham Belfry Hotel from QHotels is brilliant, straight off the M1 with an open airy event space that can be used in a number of different ways; there's also a lovely courtyard so people can easily get fresh air during the day."
De Vere East Midlands Conference Centre.
Leeds is a major hub for health innovation companies and home to NHS England and the Leeds Centre for Personalised Medicine and Health, making it “a powerhouse in terms of its contribution to the UK healthcare sector”, according to Claire Heap, Head of ConferenceLeeds. The city hosted the 19th annual meeting of the British Association of Paediatric Endoscopic Surgeons and the UK Congress on Obesity this year, with the British Association of Endocrine and Thyroid Surgeons annual conference returning next year.
Local ambassador Aali Sheen helped to bring the 2022 European Hernia Society Annual Meeting to Manchester Central, with 1,200 delegates and value of £2.7m, while more than 2,000 delegates will attend the 14th Annual Congress of the European Association for Haemophilia and Allied Disorders in 2021.
And Belfast – the number one European destination city for new medical software development projects – expects 1,800 delegates at the ICC Belfast in June 2020 for the World Trauma Summit & International Trauma Summit: other wins include the British Orthopaedic Association in 2021.
Hotel Novotel London West was the venue selected for Pharmacy Together, the joint annual conference of Pharmacy Management and the UK Clinical Pharmacy Association, in November for more than 400 attendees.
"The inclusion of a workshop on the developing role of GP practise pharmacists, a debate with a panel of highly regarded senior pharmacists and splitting some time slots to deliver short presentations from different people on the same theme provided an interesting mix of format," explains Alex Bower, Editor-in-Chief of Pharmacy Management, who added that they'd plumped for a venue in the capital because "London is readily accessible for most people and the hotel can be readily accessed by underground from the mainline rail stations".
"The Novotel was able to host the size of our event with easy movement by escalators to different floors and satellite rooms, as well as having a large enough room to host our networking zone with its industry stands and NHS delegates' poster exhibition," he says.
"Having the registration area set out adjacent to the cloakroom and immediately on entering the networking zone made it easy and convenient to register delegates and welcome them. In essence, everything flowed well."
- Healthcare-Venues is now represented in 23 countries with 450 venues already assessed or signed up to the solution by the end of 2020, including 50 in the UK, plus 80 trained venue healthcare champions here
- Ashfield Meetings & Events delivered over 2,500 events across 50 countries and managed the attendance of 141,000+ delegates in 2018
- Manchester has 20+ international conferences confirmed for the next few years in life sciences and healthcare, worth more than £30m
- In the last 18 months, Meet Cambridge has taken £2.8m worth of enquiries from organisations in the medical and pharmaceutical sector
- The 9,000-delegate International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis Congress in 2022 is expected to provide £59m in economic benefit to London.
A desire to travel led Holly Patrick to the business meetings and events world and she’s never looked back. Holly takes a particular interest in event sustainability and creating a diverse and inclusive industry. When she’s not working, she can be found rolling skating along Brighton seafront listening to an eclectic playlist, featuring the likes of Patti Smith, Sean Paul, and Arooj Aftab.