United Kingdom Life Science Companies Experience Firsthand the Reason Irvine's Strong Innovation Ecosystem is Capturing the World's Attention

Monday, December 17, 2018

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Not taking a second seat to Boston, the Bay Area, or anywhere else for that matter, the Greater Irvine Chamber has strategically targeted U.K. companies for expansion into Irvine’s strong life science and innovation ecosystem. From research conducted by the Chamber’s economic development team, the U.K. life science sector was identified to have the greatest potential globally for expansion to the U.S.—more specifically, to Irvine. The Chamber engaged its foreign direct investment initiative (FDI), sending a Chamber delegation twice to the U.K. to convene with executives who have expressed readiness to expand their companies into the U.S.

As a follow-up to its FDI visits abroad, the Greater Irvine Chamber in late October hosted 15 executives from 10 U.K. life science companies and three associations for a three-day Irvine/Orange County Life Science Showcase.

“After just two years cultivating the U.K. life science sector, Irvine has an enhanced profile and a solid reputation. The response to our Life Science Showcase is proof that we are now on the global radar and our chances of securing U.K.-owned company-growth here is increased measurably,” said Linda DiMario, vice president of the Greater Irvine Chamber.

The Chamber executive team and industry-experts Chamber partners showcased Irvine’s life science and innovation ecosystem, encouraging the visiting company executives to select Irvine/Orange County as the location for their expansion.

“Irvine/OC investors and healthcare providers are open to doing business with U.K. small and medium-sized enterprises, and the leadership behind the initiative to welcome companies like us is highly motivated, organized, and professional,” said Giovanna Forte, CEO of Forte Medical.

As part of the Showcase the executives representing Forte Medical, as well as Ampersand + Ampersand, Austin Fraser, Medical Realities, Plasticell, uMed, Innovarius, Cambridge Epigenetix, Kokoon, Performance Fifteen, and the Association of British HealthTech Industries, were hosted by OCTANe, Orange County’s startup accelerator, for its Medical Technology Innovation Forum, the largest conference in Southern California focused on high-growth medical technology innovation and investment. Joining more than 800 conference attendees for sessions, the group was also able to meet with high-growth medical technology innovation and investment experts.

Another Chamber partner, UCI Applied Innovation, showcased its role in the Irvine innovation ecosystem and hosted the U.K. group for a presentation and tour, which included a visit to the Beckman Laser Institute and a preview of its growth and expansion plans. This was followed by a visit and tour of Hoag Hospital and capped off by the Chamber delegation’s Irvine Ready! Reception held at the Hive & Honey Rooftop Bar at the Irvine Marriott Spectrum. This reception brought together more than 100 ecosystem experts ready to work with the U.K. companies to facilitate their decision-making and provide location assistance to the U.S.

“My overall conclusion is that Irvine is a great place to do business, primarily due to the number and quality of healthcare providers that reside in SoCal and the quality of academic institutions as a source of talent and innovation. The UCI ecosystem enabling a start-up to scale was particularly impressive as well as the number of organizations that are there to provide soft landings and help with the more operational/administrative aspects. And of course, the Chamber is a great group of proactive people, all very personable, professional, and willing to help in any and every way, with the mindset and openness to explore opportunities,” said Jake Niarchos of Ampersand + Ampersand.

A tour of Edwards Lifesciences on the last day was followed by a series of one-on-one sessions with Irvine Ready! hosts with expertise in taxation, law, logistics, human resources and talent acquisition, regulatory matters, real estate, and many other areas.

“I have, in my time, dealt with many chambers of commerce and mayoral efforts to encourage FDI, but nothing compares to the cohesion and alignment of the Chamber’s political, business, and social network. Every single individual I met, be they from a company, university, or just a social contact, was genuinely happy to be in Irvine, excited about the city’s future and generous with their time and advice. This openness pervades the community right up to Irvine’s esteemed mayor, Don Wagner,” Dennis Saw, CEO of Plasticell, said. “Then, of course, there is Irvine itself, with its planned green spaces, retail parks, beaches nearby, a symphony orchestra, an active museum… I get that it is safe and replete with good schools, hence a draw for professionals who are at the stage of setting down roots. I get that, compared to the neighboring cities and the North Bay Area, the relative lower overall cost of housing and commercial real estate is an opportunity to build a business with efficient use of capital.” 

The Chamber continues to work with these companies and others to help them select Irvine and become integrated into our ecosystem. Several of the U.K. companies that participated in this coordinated Irvine/Orange County Life Science Showcase have expressed an interest in establishing a presence here and work is underway to assist them.

Category: Chamber News, Workforce Development, Economic Development