Frontiers Health panel: Startup-Corporate Collaborations in Healthcare

We participated in the Frontiers Health conference panel discussion to share some of our insights about innovative corporate-startup partnership approaches as well as the main obstacles faced along the way with the audience.

Frontiers Health is one of the premier global digital health innovation events, with a strong focus on digital therapies, breakthrough technologies, healthcare transformation, investments, and ecosystem development. The guiding themes of this year´s conference were digital therapeutics, digital transformation, telehealth as well as funding and scaling.

Combining the assets of large corporates with the speed and creativity of startups has tremendous potential. For three years now, we have connected leading pharma companies to some of the most promising European start-ups to foster innovation and growth, and on the 11th of November, we shared some of our insights.

Our “Startup-Corporate Collaborations in Healthcare: Building Win-Win Partnerships” panel has been moderated by Barbara Costa, the Business Creation Manager at EIT Health Germany. The panel’s main objectives were to deepen the understanding of startup-corporate collaborations and to present the “Startups Meet Pharma (SMP)” and “Startups Meet Healthcare Providers” programmes, two of our initiatives designed to foster these collaborations in the healthcare sector. The panel explored innovative corporate-startup partnership approaches as well as the main obstacles faced along the way.

At the beginning of the session, Barbara Costa gave a short introduction about EIT, where she also expressed:

“At EIT, we realized that there is a problem, namely that 44% of the collaboration between startups and corporates fails and we took that quite seriously. And that’s why we established the SMP program and that is the reason we brought together today the speakers to talk more about this topic.”

The panel included a representative of a large pharmaceutical company that has participated in SMP, a representative of a startup that has experience collaborating with Pharma and has participated in SMP, a representative of a hospital focused on innovation and a startup that has experience implementing its solution in a hospital. Let’s see what the speakers said during the panel:

Hannes Toivanen, Lead for Strategic Partnership at Takeda:

“EIT has a really ambitious scientific and technological vision and that really plays well with Takeda´s vision of translating science into practical outcomes, treatments. And then having somebody to support us to really link to all the leading institutions in Europe, to their incubators and accelerators and having that reach, that was really important. It is because often we just don’t have the resources or the skills or personal to go around. And having a program as kind of  ground through few months, it was really beneficial for us.”

Lluc Diaz, Open Innovation Lead at Novo Nordisk:

“Because of the nature of this field, we try to also deliver products quickly. We’re working with this pure open innovation approach, for which we basically believe that we need a framework… So, interactions with startups in our pharma companies are happening. For them, we define frameworks that help the organization move from knowing there are some needs to trying to figure out how we can solve them. But it is also important that we validate and activate, so we’re using all these expression problems the same way… Another important factor is to make sure that we make it with the product to a pilot.”

Jeremy Dähn, Chief Digital Officer at Johanniter GmbH:

“The aim for the society and for the healthcare system is first of all to improve the care and to really monitor the care of the chronically ill. Because when we see it in Germany, right about 70 to 75% of the direct health care costs are going to chronically ill patients, and most of these patients do not have enough facilities to get treated. So, we have to find ways to better treat these patients, and these are possibilities where we look for collaboration with startups. Of course, we have high regulatory aspects. In the direct interaction with patients, the startups need to comply with the medical device regulation and they need to comply with the GDPR, and these are high standards for startups.”

Roberto Iannone, CEO of Zoundream AG:

“At Zoundream, we realized very soon that we didn’t really know how to work with hospitals. Actually, we didn’t even know what actually they wanted: what they’re interested in… We realized, we can´t figure it out like this: we actually need to import people who have done it. We also figured out that it is a very small word and basically, the network is incredibly important. Another thing that took really long: to build credibility. So not only do you need to get there with a serious proposal but it also has to be credible.”

Konstantinos Saridakis, CEO of Collaborate Healthcare:

“First of all, I would like to stress out how important SMP is. Because we have realized that it’s extremely difficult to engage in dialogue with pharma companies outside this kind of program. SMP is where we managed to open the door and the discussion with them because the company didn’t have the processes and the tools to forward the discussion. So getting into programs like the SMP is an amazing opportunity… For us, it was a game-changing opportunity because it gave us tremendous values up to two levels. Once, on the marketing level. It was the first real industry validation that our solution actually works and can solve real underlining problems that the industry has. And they also resulted in great PR and important investor attention. Secondly, product-wise we got an amazing opportunity to receive feedback and incorporate this feedback in our product.”