Report advises city to exit London Medical Network
Published Wednesday, August 21, 2019 5:11PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, August 22, 2019 5:55AM EDT
City hall may pull the plug on a $10-million investment that had promised hundreds of high quality jobs in London.
Dubbed the London Medical Network (LMN), it was an ambitious collaboration between Western University, city hall, local hospitals and the Lawson Health Research Institute.
But just four years after council approved funding the enterprise, a new report recommends scrapping it.
The LMN launched in 2014. By the end of 2015, city council approved a $10 million grant to commercialize local medical breakthroughs - turning them into start-up companies.
Western University said it would match city hall's contribution with $20 million.
The project was hailed as a big step towards getting the local players to cooperate — promising to create 550 full time sustainable jobs.
But in March, Western abruptly pulled out - stating public confusion regarding the university’s participation in the network was detracting from existing projects. In essence the network was under growing public pressure to show results.
Now just four years after funding the initiative, City Manager Martin Hayward recommends council walk away and ask for the remaining $7.3-million back.
“We have to re-evaluate where we are because we have money sitting there, we don't want it sitting there doing nothing,” he says.
In a new report, he gives a long list of reasons the London Medical Network struggled, including legal delays establishing the LMN corporation, LMN governing council had no representatives with experience investing in medical start-ups, no full time staff, the role of the city manager and mayor on the LMN board was never outlined by council and the withdrawal of Western University.
“With Western pulling out, they were obviously a major player a major partner and significant in terms of research that could lead to commercialization and jobs,” Hayward says.
While council could use the remaining $7.3-million however it sees fit, Hayward recommends it be used as capital dollars to build housing with supports for mental health and addiction.
“I think the money is going to be better invested in those areas,” says Coun. Michael van Holst.
For the roughly $2.7-million city hall spent on the network, the report says it created about 102.5 full-time jobs. That works out to spending about $26,340 per job.
Mayor Ed Holder rejects suggestions the network was a failure.
“I think the jury is going to be out on some that might turn out to be very positive investments for this community and I sure hope that was the case.”
LMD will make a presentation to council members at a public meeting on Monday.