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Research and Development

Our Research and Development (‘R&D’) strategy is at the heart of our business model. Through it we deliver pioneering products and services, and drive innovation across the markets we serve.

In 2015, we reiterated our commitment to R&D by announcing a single global organisation to be led by a new President of Global Research and Development, reporting directly to the Chief Executive Officer.

The new global R&D team will focus on delivering a broader portfolio of more meaningfully disruptive products and services, as well as a greater utilisation of digital technologies in medical devices. It will also enable better product life cycle management and alignment and sharing of resources across our franchises.

We are already highly disciplined in project selection

Our R&D experts in the UK, US, Europe, China and India have extensive customer and sector knowledge, which is augmented by ongoing interaction with our marketing teams.

Strict criteria are applied to ensure new products fulfil an unmet clinical need, have a strong commercial rationale, and are technologically feasible. The R&D function works closely with the manufacturing and supply chain management teams to ensure we can produce new products to clinical, cost and time specification. Our products undergo clinical and health economic assessments both during their development and post launch.

Investment in R&D

In 2015, we invested $222 million in R&D, in-line with our commitment, set out in 2011, to increase our investment level to around 5% of revenue. We expect to maintain this proportion going forward, but to realise greater benefit through our new structure. We have a strong new product pipeline for 2016, with many innovations scheduled.

We invest in scouting for new technologies, identifying complementary opportunities in our core and adjacent segments. The acquisition of robotics-assisted surgical business Blue Belt Technologies, announced in 2015, is an example of this activity.

We also invest in small companies developing compelling technologies in our franchise areas through our incubation fund. In addition to funding, we bring our expertise to help the development process, including supporting clinical studies, and typically secure preferred access to technology as it nears market readiness. Recent investments include exciting early-stage but high-potential technologies in sports medicine, extremities and trauma.

Open Innovation

As part of our R&D strategy, Smith & Nephew supports and works with numerous small companies looking for help with developing and commercialising new technologies.

As supporters of NASA’s TecFusion Open Innovation programe we access and support companies developing highly creative, often disruptive, technologies that are funded by the US federal government.

We are a primary sponsor of the Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center ('M2D2') New Venture Competition, supporting entrepreneurial product development by early-stage medical device companies.

We are the commercial partner in SWAN-iCare, an EU-funded initiative to bring multidisciplinary European research teams together to deliver a next generation integrated autonomous solution for monitoring and adapting personalised therapy of foot and leg ulcers.


Smith & Nephew also welcomes new product concepts from surgeons. Through our InVentures programme we collaborate to bring ideas to reality.

InVentures evaluates surgeon concepts for technical and market viability and our development team works hand-in-hand with surgeons to deliver new products that advance healing.

Commercialised products benefit from the global selling power of Smith & Nephew. In 2013, we introduced a new MODULAR RAIL SYSTEM for deformity correction and limb restoration that was designed in collaboration with Dror Paley MD through the InVentures programme.