It’s not news that Surrey is one of the fastest-growing cities in Canada, exceeding the national average growth rate by nearly 13 per cent, or that 44 per cent of Surrey residents speak English as a second language. But did you know that these factors help to provide an opportunity for Surrey to leapfrog to the front of the international medical research technology race?
The unique population growth and demographics of Surrey, combined with its exceptionally strong leadership and significant potential for health science innovation, are providing the foundation for Surrey’s future as an emerging health technologies hub, with its sights set directly on global leadership. And through the creation of a medical technology capacity in Surrey’s Central district, that goal is quickly becoming a reality.
The common vision is to develop medical technology-based innovations – innovations with tangible impacts that touch patient’s lives. These innovations will also contribute to the wealth of Canada through economic growth, job creation and investment in highly-skilled people as a top renewable resource.
With a focus on health technologies, Surrey’s competitive edge comes from fully integrating advanced research capabilities from universities like Simon Fraser with the front-line medical expertise of Surrey Memorial Hospital and the Fraser Health region. This health care impact model, and its growing success, supports a wide array of business opportunities, from commercialization of new technologies to exporting best practices in health care innovation. Not only can technology be utilized to bring better care at reduced costs, but it can bring unprecedented economic value to Surrey by positioning the city as a leader in providing solutions to our critically important health care issues.
The initial focus of the medical technology hub will be neurotechnologies, with the goal to expand from there. With approximately one in three Canadians predicted to be directly affected by brain illness during their lives, Canada is already considered one of the world’s best when it comes to neuroscience. The challenge, and the opportunity, is to convert this asset into leadership in innovation – which is where neurotechnologies comes in. And it will drive Surrey’s economy.
Already Surrey is home to one of the largest centres of health and technical experts in B.C., providing an unprecedented opportunity to advance health technology work – work that can be quickly translated into patient care and outcomes. In the coming years, the largest health infrastructure investment in B.C.’s history will be made at Surrey Memorial, with the new Emergency Department slated to be second largest in the country; an eight-story Critical Care Tower that will grow in-patient capacity; the Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre that offers more than 50 clinics to Lower Mainland residents; and research and academic investment in personnel and lab/teaching space, enabling a fully-integrated regional university presence across several partner institutions.
Indeed, university partnerships are key to this equation. Integrate health care with research and technical capabilities, and the raw ingredients for medical technology capacity and a health technology economy are there. Importantly, Surrey is thinking forward in terms of priorities around health science and innovation. The research agenda is designed for today’s problems and funding opportunities, for example focusing on measuring success by metrics that establish better health care and reduced costs. Metrics around innovation and economic impact will be front-and-centre, as will traditional academic measures of impact that establish medical research track records globally.
Most importantly, people’s lives will be touched by this initiative. Examples like Canadian Forces veteran Trevor Greene will become the trademark of Surrey’s medical research impact. Captain Greene suffered an ax blow to the head while serving in Afghanistan in 2006. Neurotechnology capabilities, like those under development in Surrey, track the rewiring of Greene’s brain as he and his family demonstrate remarkable strides in recovery.
Unbound by traditions, history or position, Surrey is poised to become a leader in the US $307.7-billion international medical technology industry. According to Life Sciences BC, British Columbia’s medical technologies have been growing at a rate that greatly outpaces the national average. By mobilizing this knowledge and translating research into real-world health and business advances, Surrey will generate critical care solutions that can reach the frontlines of medical care in B.C. and around the world.
Dr. Ryan C.N. D’Arcy is the Surrey Memorial Hospital Foundation B.C. Leadership Chair in Multimodal Technology for Healthcare Innovation at Simon Fraser University. He is also head of Health Sciences and Innovation at Fraser Health’s Surrey Memorial Hospital. Dr. D’Arcy previously led in the development of a medical technology cluster in Atlantic Canada and has recently returned home to B.C.