How to get your med-tech innovation off the ground
Technological innovation is currently at the forefront of entrepreneurial developments across the globe, and this is no different in the healthcare industry.
The NHS has been promised an extra £20bn annually and as revolutionary technologies such as virtual and augmented reality tools and digital health management platforms become part of the mainstream medical landscape, improvements to health services could be monumental.
This is not just the case when considering patient outcomes, but also in increasing preventative measures, widening patient’s access to services and relieving pressure on increasingly overwhelmed providers. However, when looking to fill gaps in the market and deliver these innovations, entrepreneurial individuals and companies must understand the challenges they may face and how to navigate them successfully.
Med-tech entrepreneurs can face many barriers on the road to market, but perhaps none more arduous than attracting investment. Even with a terrific central idea in place, investors are often incredibly scrupulous and can be difficult to win over. This can be a difficult problem to navigate, as even just demonstrating the efficacy of a product or service can cost a high price, so without the necessary funding, good ideas are essentially dead in the water. Therefore, it is important that healthcare innovators produce a detailed breakdown for potential investors, explaining not only the idea itself, but also their step-by-step intentions, detailing the exact route to the end product or service. It is also important to highlight how said route will be profitable; investors need to know that you can speak their language and intend on returning financial gains.
All reasonable ideas should be on the table at this point. By seeking support in this arena, innovators may conclude that the best route to commercialisation will involve licensing their idea to a larger business with specialist resources already in place. Alternatively, they may decide that investors in other territories such as the US may be more freely able to fund their projects. In the increasingly globalised healthcare technologies market, the world really can be the innovator’s oyster.
Learn from your failures
While it might seem somewhat contradictory, to truly succeed in the world of med-tech innovation, entrepreneurs will often need to fail first. It is often easy to fixate too intensely on the original concept; failure is the only sure-fire way to learn adaptability, and the capability to iterate both ideas and distribution strategies. By adopting a ‘fail fast’ attitude, innovators can learn to make adjustments quickly, speeding up the timeline to market.
Sometimes it is even worth failing at an ideas stage, if the product or device in development isn’t properly solving a problem. A technological innovation can be effective and novel, but if it doesn’t solve a significant problem in the market or in the practice and application of healthcare, then it is unlikely to be particularly viable or attractive prospect for investors. In an instance such as this failure can often help entrepreneurs to see the bigger picture and appreciate the importance of fully understanding the market and the customer user experience.
Protect your innovations
If entrepreneurs do go down the route of licensing when attempting to commercialise their product, it is important that the agreement is carefully scrutinised. A well-drafted licence agreement will help to balance risk and reward between parties and will therefore help the entrepreneur realise value through a royalty stream. However, it is similarly important that any agreements also ensure the integrity of any intellectual property (IP).
This should be the case with any innovation under any circumstance and isn’t always the simplest of tasks. However, rushing to patent might not always be the best course of action when attempting to protect a new technology, so specialist advice should always be sought when grappling with IP. Other forms of protection may also involve the use of confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements, so any med-tech innovators should make sure they’re well-versed in the application of these legal contracts.
If entrepreneurs remain pragmatic when looking to commercialise a new innovation, and employ a structured approach, huge opportunities are available to not only create a viable business venture, but also to revolutionise the healthcare sector to everyone’s benefit. For more information, or to discuss any of these issues further, please contact Roger Harcourt, partner and head of healthcare.