Royce Working Group calls on UK Materials Community to input to Consultation

Royce Mid-term Report on Materials for Bioelectronics sets foundation for long term Strategy

The Henry Royce Institute for advanced materials (Royce) has completed the first phase of the development of a Materials for Bioelectronics in Healthcare Strategy and Action Plan. 

Bioelectronics is a hugely exciting area that builds on the field of tissue engineering, augmented with electronic materials.  The UK already has a number exciting devices reaching the clinic, such as deep brain stimulation as a treatment for disease-related motor dysfunction and of course cardiac pacemakers are well known, and operate by providing small electrical signals to help regulate the operation of the heart.

However, while we have established pockets of activities on bioelectronics, a major step up in investment is required to increase industrial involvement in progressing exciting, nascent opportunities. It is clear that many more conditions, from chronic pain, to arthritis, to controlling inflammation, may obtain a therapeutic benefit from modulation of either the central or peripheral nervous system.

This Interim Report has mapped sector activity to better understand potential growth areas, and is the first step in surfacing the materials research challenges in the sector. It reveals that the UK has an active research sector in bioelectronics, producing around 11% of scientific papers published globally in the sector.

The final Strategy and Action Plan, to be published in June will deliver actionable pathways to building a materials innovation ecosystem that meets the demands of the growing bioelectronics sector in the UK and globally.

Royce is now inviting the materials community to complete an important survey, with a view to addressing the materials challenges that underpin the UK’s bioelectronics sector by providing potential recommendations that can support accelerated deployment of bioelectronics.

Lisa Hearty, Research and Business Engagement Lead for Biomaterials, Henry Royce Institute said:

“The impetus for this work reflects the concerns raised by the Royce Materials for Bioelectronics Working Group that there is a significant gap in the translation of innovative bioelectronic materials into the healthcare sector. This preliminary research substantiates these concerns, with the data underscoring the pressing need to delve deeper into understanding the barriers to progress, not least areas such as understandable supplier reluctance to use such new materials for implants due to concerns around liability and validation.

“However continued use of outdated materials that are likely less than optimal, means now, more than ever, that we need to focus on bringing newer, innovative materials to market. In this regard, it’s great to see the work of the UK Regulatory Horizons Council taking a proactive stance in addressing the reform required to support their rapid and safe introduction. There is huge potential to position the UK as the leader in this arena and we look forward to communicating our findings to Government to aid them in informed decision-making.”

Royce capability already supports the convergence of materials science, electronics, and biology. However, successful facilitating the translation of lab-based innovation towards clinical use means significant further advances in materials, manufacturing and characterisation. This work will support such advances, and promote action plans for growing this promising sector.

Findings to date

Global Bioelectronics Market Size

The estimated global market size for bioelectronics was between £6.0 billion and £15.7 billion in 2022. The global market size for bioelectronics could reach between £16.2 billion and £28.0 billion by 2030.

UK prominence in bioelectronics research

The UK has an active research sector in bioelectronics, producing around 11% of scientific papers published globally in the sector

Innovation locations

The US and China are responsible for applying for 65% of the total bioelectronic patents in the world.

The UK provides 2.64% of all bioelectronics patent applications – the highest of any European country. This research has so far identified over 700 organisations worldwide with an interest in materials for bioelectronics in healthcare.

This includes 141 academic organisations and 310 UK-based companies.

Publications and patents analysis

Materials is a driver of innovation in the sector: 1 in 4 scientific papers on bioelectronics are related to materials science. Materials is also the most frequently used word in bioelectronics patent abstracts.

UK bioelectronics research funding

The UK has invested £33.5 million into bioelectronics research between 2006 and 2023.

The largest rise in funding was in 2022 with over a £5 million increase in UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding into bioelectronics research.

The UK’s bioelectronics market size

The estimated market size for the bioelectronics sector in the UK in 2024 is between £132 million and £163 million. The projected market size for the bioelectronics sector in the UK by 2030 could be between £240 million and £298 million.

Sector organisations

This research has so far identified over 1,200 organisations worldwide with an interest in materials for bioelectronics in healthcare. This includes 118 academic organisations, and 1,035 companies. 241 of these companies are based in the UK.

Consultation Launch

Royce is now seeking to understand the future innovation challenges and opportunities in materials for bioelectronics, and what is needed to support research and translation of material advances into life changing products.

Project partner, Urban Foresight is now running a Materials in Bioelectronics Survey, and will be following up with a number of one to one interviews. The valuable insights gained through this survey and follow-up interviews will be used to inform a future innovation strategy and action plan for materials developed for and used in bioelectronic healthcare.

Royce would like to hear from anyone involved in: developing materials for bioelectronics in healthcare products, developing or selling these products, applying them in clinical settings, or otherwise supporting the sector. Response from all backgrounds are welcome, regardless of specific experience in materials for bioelectronics in healthcare.

Notes for editors

This report was commissioned by The Henry Royce Institute as part of its role around convening and supporting the UK advanced materials community to help promote and develop new research activity. The overriding objective is to bring together the advanced materials community to discuss, analyse and assimilate opportunities for emerging materials research for economic and societal benefit.

Royce is undertaking this ambitious strategy development activity relating to materials for bioelectronics in healthcare to support the sector, and has appointed a partnership between Urban Foresight, ScotChem, and CPI to define and explore actions that will meet the growing demand for advanced materials for bioelectronics. These headline findings and accompanying graphics are available to use to promote the survey’s development and to encourage interested stakeholders to complete the survey.

The Henry Royce Institute was established to ensure the UK can exploit its world-leading expertise in advanced materials and accelerate innovation from discovery to application.

With over £200 million of facilities in dedicated state-of-the art laboratories, Royce is ensuring that academics and industry in the UK’s materials community have access to world-class research capabilities, infrastructure, expertise, and skills development. ​