Pfizer eyes healthtech start-ups with new accelerator programme

Pharmaceuticals firm Pfizer launches an initiative to help healthtech start-ups reach more patients and providers.

Healthtech is hot, and pharma giant Pfizer is just one in a long list of large corporates who’s clued up on the sector’s growing potential. With a constant stream of innovation in devices, apps, wearables in healthcare, healthtech promises solutions for longstanding medical problems.

“Health tech is most definitely a growing area and just one example of how the UK has been a great centre of innovation across healthcare. The latest UK government data reveals that there are more than 3,000 medical technology companies in the UK, generating over £22 billion in revenue, with a growth rate of 20 per cent,” Dr Hamish Graham, London manager of the Pfizer Healthcare Hub tells GrowthBusiness.

“Digital health in particular is one of the fastest growing sectors in terms of jobs, with a growth rate of 20 per cent. Those numbers are impressive but there is still a long way to go before we can truly claim that UK health tech has reached its full potential.”

In recent years, UK’s growing healthtech sector has seen significant investment from both within the UK and overseas. The North West Fund for Biomedical, Mercia Technologies PLC, and the GM&C Life Sciences Fund are just some examples of this kind of investment, Dr Graham adds. “The sector is vibrant with companies tackling real patient and health professionals’ needs in inventive, innovative ways – through artificial reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, wearables or gamification. Devices, apps and wearables are using profound behavioural insights to effect and influence change, by allowing patients to monitor conditions remotely, for example. Apps like Babylon Health, DrNow and PushDoctor are great examples of how British innovators are at the cutting edge, applying digital incentives to transform health in the UK and beyond.”

Pfizer’s new initiative, Health Care Hub, seeking to support and accelerate the growth of late-stage start-ups by providing access to Pfizer’s network and resources, to reach more patients and providers, like the NHS, faster.

“The UK health tech ecosystem has made incredible progress and ongoing developments in technology mean it can achieve even more. But we need to focus on growing the number of seasoned entrepreneurs that have had successfully invested and then gone on to re-invest. The Pfizer Healthcare Hub aims to help build connections between businesses, patients, providers and the rest of the industry to fuel growth and improve outcomes for both patients and doctors,” Dr Graham says.

Pfizer is seeking to support start-ups who have developed a product or service ready for use by healthcare professionals which can show evidence of benefits to patients or clinicians.

Start-ups will compete for a share of a grant of £56,000 and a year-long programme of support, helping them to navigate the UK’s health system, and giving them the opportunity to meet the people who can move their ideas and their businesses forward. UK-registered companies and charities looking for support are invited to enter the process for a chance to become part of the inaugural programme.

“Pfizer wants to support the development of a complete health eco-system where patients have access to improved information and better care, not just at the point where someone receives one of our medicines. Pfizer recognises that the most powerful innovations come about through connections – between ideas, people, problems and data. By helping start-ups reach more patients and have a greater impact, the hub aims to help transform and improve patient’s lives,” Dr Graham explains.

“We have a track record of working with the NHS and academics to address priority areas in both research and education. The hub is therefore, in many ways, a wider extension of business as usual. It will be judged only on how great the impact of the winners has been for patients and providers. The UK is home to some of the brightest healthcare start-ups in the world, making it extremely rewarding to help and enable them make a difference.”

The Pfizer Healthcare Hub: London is the latest in a global network of Pfizer innovation hubs, joining existing centres in New York, Berlin and Tel Aviv. New hubs are also being launched simultaneously in Stockholm, Sydney and Toronto.

“The Pfizer Healthcare Hub is working with late-stage companies for two reasons – the first is that it is a real challenge in the UK health eco-system for start-ups to move beyond their first contract and get the second, third and fourth NHS trust, foundation or CCG agreement. Working with companies ready to deploy their product or solution means we can help them get the most from our expertise as a biopharmaceutical partner with experience operating in both the UK and beyond. We are focussing on later stage start-ups as it is important that these companies can show evidence of the benefits their product or service would bring to patients or clinicians,” he adds.

“The second reason for tackling later stage companies is the opportunity to address an area of the health landscape that has already been primed by the work of some great incubators. The NHS is constantly changing and, right now, for start-ups, there are plenty of opportunities to use partnerships to grow more rapidly. There are digital exemplar sites, Sustainability and Transformation Plans and other health bodies open to embracing the challenges and potential of digital – this is a moment of great opportunity.”

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.

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