Next generation of high-growth health SMEs unveiled

Five NHS digital health accelerators launch across England this month, as part of the largest push yet to rapidly increase the speed of digital health products take up in the NHS.

Following a highly competitive process, 34 companies have been selected as some of the highest potential and best-placed to help England’s NHS meet the challenges of an ageing population and scarce resources.

The announcement comes days after the Health Secretary Matt Hancock vowed to “bring the NHS into the 21st century”, and shared his aspirations for the NHS to become the best in the world at using technology in healthcare. The digital health market in England is expected to reach almost £43 billion by 2018 and £408 billion by 2025.

The schemes are run by Academic Health Science Networks and their partners, and launch today in London, Manchester, the South West, East Midlands, and Kent Surrey and Sussex. It is the first time it has operated beyond London, where a successful accelerator has been running for two years, saving in excess of £50 million for the NHS and working with 60 companies. The London programme generated 169 jobs for Londoners in just two years.

The 34 successful SMEs will receive:

  • one-to-one support from a designated “NHS Navigator”: someone with strong clinical or NHS provider experience, who really know the NHS, and can help companies approach it
  • specialist training
  • support with product development
  • opportunities to meet experts from business, clinical, and government backgrounds
  • regular opportunities to showcase their products with NHS decision-makers and influencers.

Mike Hannay, Chair of the AHSN Network, which runs the Accelerator schemes with partners, said: “Despite the array of talent and resources available, there is room for much better collaboration between SMEs and the health system to increase England’s competitiveness in digital innovation. Connections between entrepreneurial innovation and health are essential for England to realise its potential and become a world leader in digital health innovation. With Brexit on the horizon, this scheme is more important than ever before. We have seen rapid growth in the companies supported by our existing London accelerator and look forward to building on this with the next generation of start-ups.”

Dr Mark Harmon, Strategic Director at eConsult, one of the companies that took part in the 2017-18 London accelerator said: “For small health companies and start-ups, the NHS can be a very difficult place to navigate and do business. Whilst wanting to make positive changes for a sustainable NHS, there can be significant barriers to overcome. Working with the London accelerator programme has helped us with contacts and getting to the people that matter, and in turn contributed to an acceleration in our growth. We’ve almost doubled the number of practices we work in during the course of the scheme and are mobilising in almost four times as many.”

The successful companies include:

  • Forward Clinical Ltd: a secure messaging and workflow app created by doctors that could save hospital doctors an average of 42 minutes per shift versus current communication tools.
  • an app turning smartphones into regulatory approved clinical devices for urine testing.
  • My Possible Self: a mental health app proven to reduce stress, anxiety and depression in just eight weeks.
  • Safe Steps: an app that helps reduce the risk of falls by assessing and tracking lifestyle and risk factors of care home residents.

See more about how the NHS is exploring new digital innovations here.