By Philippa Hedley-Takhar, Head of Investment and Partnerships, Yorkshire & Humber AHSN
When companies are navigating the innovation pathway from idea to commercialisation, the ability to access funding and/or investment is typically the key to unlock access to the next stage in that journey – moving from proof of concept; to research and development; to demonstration and to scale up capacity to respond to customer demand.
However, accessing the right funding at the right time can be a somewhat fraught process for even the most inspired and experienced healthcare entrepreneurs, with sources and types of funding dependent on a range of factors including who the lead applicant or consortium partners are (NHS organisation, academia, industry, voluntary sector); the amount and type of funding sought; purpose of funding sought (research, development, demonstration, commercialisation, evaluation etc.); the size and stage of business (pre-start, early stage, established, MBO); geographical location of applicant; timescales etc.
In response to the challenges in understanding what funding is ‘out there’ for healthcare innovation (and to enable organisations to respond early enough to maximise chances of success on application), the Yorkshire & Humber AHSN is constantly horizon scanning to identify and signpost funding opportunities that seek to facilitate collaboration and accelerate innovation in healthcare across all technology readiness levels.
And this isn’t restricted to grant or research funding, spotting trends in high growth company fundraising and identifying investors who are actively seeking opportunities in specific technologies and market sectors is also part of the service. To find out more keep an eye on www.yhahsn.og.uk/funding for regular updates (and reduce the risk of finding the ideal funding source that has less than 24 hours to application deadline!).
Collaboration between innovation agencies is also key to unlocking funding mechanisms which align market pull and technology push.
For example, the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) Healthcare annual programme of competitions invites companies to come forward with their ideas and new technologies for known NHS challenges selected by the national AHSN network. Work is in progress now to review applications for recent calls to enable “Self-care in young people with long term conditions” and to “Improve operational efficiency in acute care” with new thematic competitions to be launched in Autumn 2016 to fully-fund development contracts with the NHS.
The Yorkshire & Humber AHSN, with national AHSN partners, are also working with Creative England to support the development of priority digital healthcare products and services through the Interactive Healthcare Fund as part of the commitment to support adoption and spread of innovation at pace and scale to benefit citizens, improve NHS cost effectiveness and create economic growth for the region and nationally. The Fund has been designed with business growth in mind by seeking web, tablet, or smartphone solutions to known healthcare priorities, including:
- Enabling citizen empowerment and maintaining independence for people living with Long Term Conditions (LTCs)
- Supporting medicines adherence and optimisation
- Public health and wellbeing and reducing inequalities in health
- Improving patient safety and falls prevention
- Supporting mental health and wellbeing (including young people’s mental health)
The Fund will invest in small or medium enterprises (SMEs) at an advanced stage of developing and commercialising digital products for the healthcare sector, with clear business propositions and the capacity for business growth, through investments of £50,000 to £200,000 per application matched 50/50 by funding from the applicant company.
The Fund will remain open until 30th September 2016 – to get the ball rolling (and with the deadline clock ticking!) find out more at www.creativeengland.co.uk/story/interactive-healthcare-fund.