Medical conferences converge on second-tier cities

Smaller towns like Warwick are attracting medical and pharmaceutical conferences, and in April 2019, the University of Warwick will host 500 delegates at the 15th European Congress on Digital Pathology in its state-of-the-art Oculus building.

Many cities look at this lucrative sector with a lick of the lips, those organising such conferences are usually based within academic institutions or associations directly linked to the subject matter.

The feedback from buyers on their dealings with convention bureaux around the country and with the event spaces themselves, seems really positive, with development and investment in newer, bigger and better facilities.

Temple Quarter revivified
Bristol’s Ashton Gate Stadium is the Southwest’s biggest conference centre and seats 1000 theatre style with 3,500 m2 of exhibition space but a recent proposal will dwarf this.  The plan is to add a 4,000 seater sports and convention centre together with two hotels. The city is excited as this should spawn an enormous increase in event business coming in to Bristol.

The University of Bristol is also working on a big regeneration programme in the city’s neglected Temple Quarter. This should be complete by 2021/2022. Forthcoming 2019 medical events include the Association of Veterinary Anaesthetists Conference and the RCN National Conference & Exhibition.

Strength in science
At Newcastle’s convention bureau (Newcastle Gateshead Initiative), conference development manager Caroline Reed says the main venues used on Tyneside include Sage Gateshead, Life Meeting & Events, and various hotels such as the Hilton and Crowne Plaza.  She also confirms that for medical/pharmaceutical conferences, there is always a local member or associate based at Newcastle University who will act as the organiser. She says: “Hosting a conference allows the academics to gain recognition in their field of expertise.”

She cites the most successful conference in this sector during 2018 as the four-day European Thyroid Association conference that took place in September. She says: “That event was secured on the back of NewcastleGateshead’s strengths in science and healthcare as well as its historic links to the development of thyroid hormone replacement therapy.”

Medical expertise
Glasgow has a long medical tradition and is today a world leader in medical research and practice. Its three universities are global leaders in the fields of life sciences, engineering, science and technology. The main venues used by delegates include 1599, located inside The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons. The Golden Jubilee Conference Hotel is a fully assessed Healthcare Venue and offers 15 meeting rooms while University of Strathclyde’s Technology & Innovation Centre offers state of the art conference amenities and brings together academia, industry and the public sector.


  • The UK pharmaceutical industry includes 573 companies, up from 376 in 2008. (Source: ONS).
  • In 2016, there were 63 000 employees in the UK pharmaceutical industry.
  • The sector’s gross value added to the UK economy was £13.7bn.   (Source: The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry).

“Since the City of Culture in 2017, there has been a much better vibe in Hull. Apart from all the extra investment and new visitors, lots of local people have realised how nice the city is,” says Martin Sykes, advanced practitioner in radiotherapy at Hull & East Yorkshire NHS Trust. He organised of a two-day  Varian Users’ conference for  100 delegates in  October 2018 .

Sykes contacted the Visit Hull & East Yorkshire conference team and they provided him with a portfolio of venues which included Hull FC’s Kcom stadium and The Deep, a huge aquarium.  But he opted for the Holiday Inn at Hull Marina.

He says: “Its location is ideal as it’s on the main road in to Hull and had an ideal meeting hall and comprehensive catering.  They were really helpful. Some other venues I contacted weren’t quite as amenable.”

Next year, he is keen to use the city’s newly opened Bonus Arena, a state-of-the-art music and events centre that has a capacity of 3,500 people.

The Belfry hosted the CliniSys Winter National Conference in November 2018.  The conference is attended by CliniSys customers, a number of key suppliers. The purpose of the conference is to educate and inform delegates on new products, innovation and what’s on the horizon in the medical and IT industry.

 Matthew Fouracre, CliniSys’ marketing manager commented: “The whole team at The Belfry went out of their way to ensure our event was a real success. No request is ever too much and the team prides itself on providing world class hospitality that consistently exceeds our expectations.

We’re always impressed at how everyone involved goes the extra mile and makes it feel like it’s the only event going on. The relationship with The Belfry and the strength of the team ensures they deliver the best events in the business and we look forward to returning in 2019.”