Campaign to Attract United Kingdom Life Science Companies to Irvine Yields Results

Friday, September 14, 2018

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Irvine is home to one of the most robust life science sectors in America, a sector where British-owned life science companies are a strong presence. Because the mission of the Greater Irvine Chamber is to enhance Irvine’s economic vitality, we looked to expand the life science sector by launching an aggressive foreign direct investment initiative to recruit U.K. life science companies for expansion to Irvine.

The Chamber conducted thorough research into the market to effectively position Irvine/Orange County in a competitive field. We learned that while California is a very strong global brand, most U.K. companies still thought of Boston first to expand in the U.S., and then maybe Silicon Valley. This challenge presented us with the first of our objectives: raise the profile and build the reputation of Irvine/Orange County and its life science sector among U.K. life science companies.

The Chamber’s strategy was to work with OCO Global – a leading authority on foreign investment, offering a range of economic development services, products, and unique company assessment tools – to penetrate the U.K. life science market, and identify and qualify companies ready to expand. Our visiting delegation presented Irvine as an opportunity to the U.K. companies for consideration. In addition, OCO Global recommended that we develop relationships with U.K. life science associations that would help us reach their membership, vouch for Irvine as an option, and multiply and amplify our messaging in a cost-effective and credible way.

The first mission in February 2017 took us to London, Cambridge, and Manchester. It included an impressive delegation from Irvine/Orange County: top executives from University of California, Irvine, Edwards Life Sciences, OCTANe, Jones Lang LaSalle, California International Trade Development, OCO Global, and K & L Gates. The four-day mission netted 40 appointments with U.K. companies, more than 75 additional industry contacts, and meetings with One Nucleus, the U.K. Life Science Association, the Association of British Healthcare Industries (ABHI), MedCity, London & Partners, and the U.K. Department of International Trade. To make a memorable impression, we hosted a reception on London Bridge.

To encourage these companies to explore Irvine/Orange County and experience our life science ecosystem, the Greater Irvine Chamber hosted a Life Science Showcase in October 2017, inviting companies and association executives to site visit. We employed the Medical Technology Innovation Forum, produced by Orange County’s premier incubator OCTANe, as the cornerstone life science event for the visit. There, we introduced two companies and three association executives to our life science companies, education partners, investors, and support resources.

Continued follow-up with targeted companies proved to be the strength of the initiative. Led by Irvine Mayor Donald P. Wagner, we returned to London and Cambridge for the second mission in February 2018. Along with members that made up the original delegation, were representatives from UCI’s Medical Center, British American Business Council, and Thinkbox Technologies. Over four days, we met with 25 U.K. companies and the Deputy Mayor of London, and were hosted at the new U.S. Embassy. We were also featured at panel events and member receptions hosted by the ABHI and One Nucleus, an international membership organization for companies working within the life science and healthcare industry.

After just 18 months, the missions are beginning to yield results. At this year’s October 2018 Life Science Showcase, we will host 10 companies site visiting for expansion in Irvine, including Plasticell, Innovarius, Ampersand + Ampersand, UMed, Forte Medical, Medical Realties, KoKoon, Cambridge Epigenetix, Austen Fraser, the CEO of ABHI, and the CEO of BIOHUB Alderly Park, Manchester, which represents 200 life science companies.

Irvine’s profile and reputation in U.K. life science circles is now well established. We have positioned Irvine/Orange County as the wise choice for U.S. expansion; Irvine is less expensive and congested than Boston, and less expensive and acquisitive than Silicon Valley. We can help companies grow their business in Irvine. We are confident that the strength and scope of our innovative ecosystem and life science sector, and our commitment to helping businesses to succeed, will serve as a strong magnet for companies seeking to expand into the U.S., now and into the future.

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