Proton Partners International
Proton Partners International is a UK based company that is building a network of oncology centres, known as the Rutherford Cancer Centres, around the country. The first completed centre is in Newport, south Wales and a further four centres are under-development in Northumberland, Reading, Liverpool, and London. Each of our centres will have a suite of services: imaging, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiotherapy and the latest high-energy proton beam therapy. The landmark Rutherford Cancer Centre South Wales in Newport is the first centre in the UK to open with those services and started treating the first UK patients with proton beam therapy in March 2018.
The most significant investment to bring us into Wales was the Wales Life Sciences Investment Fund. That’s led by the serial entrepreneur Sir Christopher Evans. They were a real advocate of what we wanted to do and invested hard cash into the business. They’ve allowed us to integrate and open up avenues throughout Wales which helps the business to thrive. A key partner to that was the Life Sciences Hub Wales in Cardiff and, of course, the universities.
Our location here in Newport has been exceptional for recruitment purposes. A key strand to that, actually, is we’ve managed to attract staff from England who were living just across the border who couldn’t get high quality work in Wales. Some of those staff are now living in Wales and bringing up their families here, which is a great incentive for them. When we did our launch event in the hub in Wales on the 11th of May 2015 we made a commitment to the academic community that we would forge real strong credible links with leading universities in Wales and we’re working with Cardiff and Swansea, but also more broadly into Bristol and Liverpool. These universities have the opportunity to collaborate together for the benefit of the life sciences community in Wales.
Having the opportunity to work alongside the Welsh Government has been significant to us and has led to our first proton beam therapy centre in Newport. They showed us a number of sites and buildings around Wales and we selected our landmark site through that network. It’s also really reassuring to build a business in Wales, where you know you have the Welsh Government as a stakeholder. If they can’t do anything themselves, they can signpost you to access to support. The Welsh Government have been really approachable throughout this process and the investment from the investment fund has opened up a number of opportunities for signposting, collaboration and networking.
I would encourage any new or established business to come into Wales and get access to this high level of life sciences, academia and healthcare services. There’s a whole infrastructure around Wales that is really supportive of new businesses. There’s a rich vein of staff to draw from and a number of skills, locally, that you may not find elsewhere. Wales is a great place to be and is a collaborative nation. The Welsh Government are key to ensuring that is a key theme, not just in rhetoric but also in action. We’ve been invited out to Arab Health to work with the Welsh Government to encourage other organisations to come into Wales. My key message is Wales is a great place to live, it gives you more opportunities for the family, but in terms of work and collaborations it’s really key. There are plenty of opportunities for organisations to come and grow their businesses in Wales. The Life Sciences Hub Wales was a real epiphany for me. I went to the hub in Cardiff and was amazed at the number of conversations that go on around the coffee machine or just around desks. The fact that Welsh Government frequent it, operate outside of there and are open to conversations just underlines that opportunity for collaboration.
Wales has become our HQ for Proton Partners International. Staff from all of our centres in the UK and abroad will come for their training here in Wales. The key attraction for start-ups is to work at the highest level with the Welsh Government and to work with universities and colleges to allow them to help them understand their business. The vision for Proton Partners International is to have a centre within 90 minutes of the front door of 75% of the UK’s population. From a standing start in 2015, to where we are and will be, is an exceptional opportunity for the patient population that we’ll support.
In terms of work–life balance, Wales is exceptional. You only have to jump in your car and travel a few miles and you’re on the coast. You can be sailing out in Cardiff Bay. You can be out in the mountains in half an hour. We do work hard but we have a ‘dare to do’ scheme, making sure that the staff get out and do something different. Most of the staff have taken opportunities to engage with the outdoor world in Wales, from zipwiring in Snowdon to walking up mountains and sailing in Cardiff Bay.