John Leach – An interview with Global Innovation Magazine


This interview with John Leach, Non-Executive Director of Trustech was published in the Global Innovation Magazine.

Click here to read the rest of the article ‘NHS Manchester – Global Healthare Innovation

John Leach is a non-executive director of Trustech and is a well-known speaker on business and innovation as well as being a lecturer of entrepreneurship.

Do you think that the NHS on the whole ignores the revenue it could bring in through innovation?

Yes. There’s more that we could extract from the NHS in terms of enterprise, knowledge and Intellectual Property and I think that’s also the case with surrounding universities. There could be and should be a better way for value extraction without taking away the quality of care that the individual receives. More could be done. The real challenge is cultures colliding.

Is part of the issue that NHS staff are measured on performance and not innovation?

That’s the point. There are a couple of Trustech innovations that have come from clinicians, consultants. That takes a very enlightened person. People join the medical professions with the aim to make sure that their patients leave the hospital fully intact. They’re not looking at value creation.
If we can find those role models and we can find those individuals that have done it, then we can expose those heroes that have been able to balance commercial with science, with healthcare. It then makes it real to others. You can do both. It’s not wrong to do both. We don’t celebrate the success enough.

What’s the solution?

One way you address this is to create communities of people that have done it. That have been successful in the innovation process. Create a community of people that have come-up with an idea and got it to market. A community that is willing to share experiences and talk to others. That for me is where the gap is.

Trustech started in 2001, where is healthcare innovation in the UK heading now?

We shouldn’t underestimate what has already been achieved. With initiatives like Citylabs and hopefully a move into other parts of the UK, we can start to bring it together by creating conversations with those that have already capitalized on their innovations. Growth essentially. You get entrepreneurial growth by pulling people together. A fast-track learning environment, a safe environment to share experiences and ideas. That’s where it’s at, that’s what Trustech offers.

How has Manchester become a global hotspot for healthcare innovation? It’s a combination of academia, access to Europe’s biggest hospital site, research, a readily-available skilled workforce and determination, all being pulled together by the innovative approach of Trustech; an NHS organization.

Find Trustech at

The Manchester Family


Today’s headlines of the North West Insider Bulletin reads – Leese stresses importance of ‘family’ ties. This was one of the core themes of yesterday’s Manchester Economic Forum. What a great job the Sir’s Howard and Richard have done in placing Manchester as the UK’s second city. The City has a brand that spans every corner of the globe and the investment attracted and regeneration projects completed must be applauded – a fantastic job. The work on the graphene hub also provides bags of excitement for the Region.

My concern lie at the heart of how the Manchester Family can be perceived – can it portray an image of “closed shop”. This particularly relates to business support in the Greater Manchester Region. Every aspect of Manchester is world-class – however its business support infrastructure is outdated and out of touch with the real needs of growth SME’s. The Business Growth Hub needs passionate leadership that reflects the needs of the coal face, not world domination and self interest.

Still some work to be done here!



I Love Manchester

I was walking through town this morning and I have to say – what a great spirit of ‘fight back from descent’ there is. Hard working people who care about their City. In an age of doom and gloom we should pay as much time focusing on the positives, and what I saw this morning was exactly that – Albert Square was buzzing with activity and preparation. The posters in the windows and the people giving up their time, effort and energy to do stuff are a great antidote to the bunch of hooligans who want something for nothing.

The reality is hard graft always wins out in the end. I am particularly impressed by those retailers who have had their windows kicked, premises vandalized along with stock damaged or stolen and have quickly dusted themselves down and cranked up the till quickly.

As we have seen in Manchester on two occasions, adversity always brings out the best in the City; the bombings being the catalyst for the fantastic centre we now have, and the riots having brought people together to make a clear commitment that such non sense will not be tolerated. Who knows this could just be the catalyst for a block busting global business from Manchester City Centre…

Cities Provide Energy for Global Starts – 165 University Avenue


165 University Avenue is a small rented office building on the main commercial street in the centre of Palo Alto, California – Silicon Valley. Also known as the “Lucky Building”, over the years it has incubated a number of “gorilla” businesses, names that include, LogitechGooglePayPalDanger, IncMilo.comeye IO and Yummly. Silicon Valley cannot be replicated, its unique, however, I strongly feel that we can learn a lot from this vibrant world-class entrepreneurial region.

Through the High Growth Foundation I am particularly keen to work out what we need to do to create our own blockbuster businesses up North and throughout the rest of the UK.  The Billion Dollar Club in the US acts as a forum for companies with a market capitalization of $1billion, no surprises that Silicon Valley companies are well represented in this list.  In recent years most notable UK companies that would fall into this elite group would be the spin outs from Cambridge University, Autonomy and Biovex from UCL. How many of these have we created in the North West? I just can’t believe we have not got the talent, I think  the environment is wrong.

We have some great incubator units in the Region, but would one in the heart of Manchester help to create a blockbuster as the West Coast of the States has repeatedly done. The external environment is crucial when you are trying to build a business, it supports creative thought and innovation – a place where there is a buzz, somewhere to go for a coffee, a pizza or a beer after work is so important. After all we are human beings and being stuck out on a limb in some Enterprise Zone I don’t think is the answer. Ambitious entrepreneurs want to be surrounded by like-minded high energy people with links to finance and capital. That happens in city centres.

We need a radical rethink about how we help the stars of tomorrow. The UK cities offer a great environment for breeding tomorrows superstars – but still we are keen to push new entrepreneurs out into the sticks where there is little energy and no spark. Maybe time for a rethink on where we encourage our beacons of tomorrow to set up. Do we have the equivalent of 165 University Avenue in Manchester?  It’s not in the City Centre as it is in Palo Alto.

Stimulating Business Innovation – New Economy Working Paper


The New Economy report launched this week provides a solid foundation on which to build Manchester’s prominent position as UK’s second City. We now need to move policy and strategic thinking into tangible activities that generate a pipeline of gazelles and gorillas. These are the terms that define businesses, which employ skilled people, generate foreign earnings and help to create vibrant and thriving local economies. By creating more of them we reduce the dependency on attracting FDI in an increasingly competitive global market place.

To build such a stock of these businesses we need a feeder of individuals with ambition and who possess a mindset that sees no boundaries, interconnected thinkers who fuse ideas together to build new and outstanding business models. Innovation starts with the way we think, if you think you can you can, if you think you can’t you’re right. Winners get their head in gear and are extremely focused and obsessive about achieving their personal and business intentions. When this frame of mind is fused with a sound commercial proposition, strong team and adequate resources, the ingredients for success are in place.


High quality business support lies at the heart of supporting the next generation of superstars, I don’t agree with the report that states this is in place in Manchester, because its not – if anything it needs to re invent and innovate itself. We have a strong financial and professional services sector, this goes without saying, but it’s more than this. Business advice that sticks is delivered by someone who has real empathy with the growth journey – they understand the key transition points of the growth cycle, its ups and downs but more importantly they provide sound inputs based on real life experience. Wrapped around high quality one to one tailored advice is the power of peer-to-peer networking – entrepreneurs learning from each other and sharing experiences in an informal manner.

Building a business can be a lonely existence. Sharing problems with likeminded people is in massive need. Manchester needs to put momentum into building high quality networking forums. We must build an environment where entrepreneurial networking leads individuals to imposing pressure on each other, in other words they want to be more successful and grow faster than the person sat next to them in the room. This friendly rivalry is a stimulus for constantly raising the bar of performance. It also creates the breeding conditions for global giants, those we typically see on the West Coast of the States.

The High Growth Foundation, a legacy of the North West High Growth Programme, aims to fill this gap. A rapidly growing alumni of ambitious individuals who want to take their business to the next level. They have bought into a belief system and supporting philosophy that acknowledges success comes with having the right mindset and a sound business idea. When you surround yourself with successful people it triggers innovation and progressive thinking, but then you need the tools to finish the job as Winston Churchill put it!





We Need More Mavericks


This post follows on from blogs I have written over the past few weeks. Mavericks are passionate, focused, determined and  often a bit off the wall; they are catalysts for change in politics, business and society in general. Mavericks exhibit extremely strong views and challenge opponents with an intensity that cuts like a laser beam. They remain strong to their views never waver in the face of adversity – they live by the principle of when the going gets tough the tough get going. Embedded deep within their psyche is the need for justice, truth and change for the better. They must accomplish their mission because its means so much to them.

One of the best accounts of Maverick behaviour I have come across is that of Pedro Zaragoza Orts, the Mayor of Benidorm from 1950 to 1967. He transformed it from a quiet fishing village to a magnet for tourists, it has  become one of the most popular holiday destinations in Europe and the basis of an award-winning Granada TV programme.

Zaragoza, sold the idea of economic transformation to the late dictator General Franco, one that would lead to allowing bikinis on the beaches! Even in the face of excommunication from the Pope he helped to make the place attractive to millions of foreign tourists who took package holidays to Benidorm. The resort changed forever, from a small village of 1,700 to a bustling holiday city today of 70,000.  This happened because Zaragoza did not want to see his fellow citizens suffer in the  challenge of economic decline. What an achievement – an individual who was in absolute service of his community.

I want to see more of this character in my beloved Manchester, because it’s lacking, ambassadors such as Sir Howard Bernstein. In my view he has done a brilliant job in changing the economic fortunes of the City. We need more of the same, individuals who are on a mission to change for the better and the greater good – not for their own personal gain or profile. Time for change in Manchester!

Where is the next Tony Wilson?


Regional economies are built on big personalities and individuals with the passion and determination to succeed. Tony Wilson in my book was a hero. He made a significant contribution to Manchester and the North, his enthusiasm for music, culture, regeneration and business in general was amazing. His personal brand became synonymous with promoting the Regions business interests. He did things for the right reason, the greater good of the people who made this place their home.  He made a massive difference in many ways leaving a legacy that many of us can only dream of.

He put Manchester on the world stage and contributed to its brand and profile. Others have tried to follow but without the same impact – probably because they have their own interests at heart, namely celebrity status and not making it a better place for the next generation of stars.

The challenging economic environment I hope will see the emergence of a new generation of individuals with the same passion and determination of Tony Wilson.





LEPS – balance thinking with doing


Having thought long and hard about this very topical issue I think the LEPS have a great opportunity to make a difference to the economy going forward. However, I am getting bit tired of hearing “they have no money and no powers, so what are they going to do?” Well the reality is they are here and likely to stay around for some time. The big opportunity is……to set the agenda and drive new ideas forward with determined ambition and passion. In my view scarcity of resources is the mother of innovation, so given there is no cash, this should drive new models and ways of doing things. I think its fair to say that in the past so much public sector funding has gone into programmes and initiatives, with much of it adding very little value. In certain parts of the Country I have seen literally millions of pounds spent on putting together activities with absolutely no thought given to sustainability or legacy. Once the public sector funding has been withdrawn everything implodes and the assets created just fall away. Every public sector funded initiative of scale should have a legacy and sustainability strategy initiated from day one of it starting, pointless 2-3 years down the line because it’s too late. This is something LEPS need to get on their agenda!

The new LEPS have the opportunity to deliver a game changing experience for local economies, this will only happen if they are have both thinkers and doers leading and managing them. I just hope there is a balance of entrepreneurial flair with disciplined (strategic and policy) thinking. What concerns me is that the latter will dominate the agenda and guess what? We will get the same as we have always got. I am still getting over a strategy and policy session I attended several weeks ago that can only be described as useless drivel and non-sense. As far as I am concerned the thinking, policy and strategy should have been done when the bids for LEP status went in. If we know the priorities then get on and do it – if the till is empty then work out how you are going to fill it. That’s the reality of the world, many businesses start with the entrepreneurs not having a pot to pee in – however, they get on with it and throw innovation and creativity at their challenges and not the bottom less pot of cash that often makes little difference.

Manchester’s next big focus


I participated in an interesting debate on Thursday last week on how to strengthen the Greater Manchester economy through science and innovation. There were some really lively comments including Sue Woodward’s from the Sharp project – the essence being lets stop talking about strategy and policy and get on and do stuff. Those comments were totally endorsed by myself as a passionate advocate for getting on and growing the economy through supporting high growth companies in the Region. We must make the transition from policy to “how to…….and action”. We are drowning in strategy studies and reports, to be honest, I am quite dizzy with it all, reading them could quite easily become a full time job. Lets get on and build on the good work already underway.

There have been some fantastic examples of regeneration projects in Greater Manchester and the broader North West. In recent years MIDAS has done some brilliant work in attracting inward investment – going forward, we must start to focus on growing our own talent. That means identifying and working with those entrepreneurs who can grow their business to say 50 employees and above, more gazelles! Building on my blog from last Saturday I am sure there must be a potential “Google” or “Facebook” type sat on our doorstep. One thing is for sure we have the talent – we just don’t have the breeding ground for them to surface. Well not yet!

I am massively in favour of attracting foreign investment, however we need to nurture and grow our own superstars – those global businesses headquartered in our backyard.

It about harnessing ambition and doing something with it. In May 1904 Charles Stewart Rolls met Henry Royce in the Midland Hotel in Manchester – it’s where salesman met inventor. That meeting led to the start of one of the world’s greatest brands and success stories in history. A Daily Telegraph article wrote Just hours before Charles Stewart Rolls met Henry Royce he confided to a friend that he had but one ambition: to be the greatest name in motoring.

Its individuals with this drive and clarity of personal intention who need help. Fusing great commercial propositions with entrepreneurial flair and determined mindsets is what will drive our economy – not only in Manchester and the North West but also nationally. In my opinion this is what the LEPS should be doing.