SBRI Healthcare: Addressing National Healthcare Needs through Business Support
Blog Oct 14, 2013
SBRI Healthcare is a nationawide initiative found in England, UK, where small businesses compete for 100% funded development contracts in collaboration with NHS England. Technology Networks caught up with Karen Livingstone, National Director for SBRI Healthcare, to find out more about this exciting scheme and the types of companies and projects which have already benefitted from its rollout.
TN: Please could you tell us a bit more about SBRI Healthcare and its goals?
Karen Livingstone (KL): The Small Business Research Initiative for Healthcare (SBRI Healthcare) is an NHS England initiative, championed by the newly formed Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs), who aim to promote UK economic growth whilst addressing unmet health needs and enhancing the take up of known best practice.
Part of Innovation Health and Wealth the SBRI Healthcare programme sets industry the challenge in a series of health related competitions which result in fully funded development contracts between the awarded company and the NHS. Unlike many R&D projects which offer grant or match funding, SBRI contracts are 100 per cent funded. While the public sector has the right to license the resultant technology, its intellectual property (IP) remains with the company.
Since 2008 the NHS has backed the SBRI programme with £17.6m invested. This has supported over 60 companies to develop innovative technologies that match the needs of the health service. A number of these are now selling into global markets and delivering innovation to the healthcare community. Previous SBRI Healthcare competitions have called for technological and innovative solutions to, for example, change people’s behaviour in order to reduce the impact of obesity and alcohol related diseases, how to live well with dementia and improved medicines management.
The SBRI programme is based on taking a two-phased development approach; projects start with initial feasibility and can then move on to more detailed product development. Phase 1 contracts for feasibility testing are valued at up to £100,000 and last for six months. Phase 2 contracts for prototype development are worth up to £1 million over two years.
TN: Could you tell us about a recent SBRI Healthcare funding success story?
KL: Each of the following companies has been supported recently by the SBRI Healthcare programme. As a result they are developing innovative products and, at the same time, growing successful businesses:
• Edixomed is producing a nitric oxide releasing wound dressing that could significantly improve wound management;
• Eykona has a hand held 3D imaging device that is changing the way tissue management and podiatry services are run;
• Polyphotonix has a revolutionary treatment for age related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopthy;
• Aseptika has a home based testing kit for those with cystic fibrosis to know when an exacerbation is imminent; and
• uMotif is supporting cognitive function and self-management in Parkinson's patients.
All of these products offer both cost and quality benefits to the NHS and its patients.
TN: Who should apply for SBRI Healthcare funding?
KL: The SBRI Healthcare scheme is particularly suited to small and medium-sized businesses as an opportunity for new companies to engage in public sector pre-procurement. But SBRI Healthcare is run along EU procurement rules, so all companies registered within the EU are eligible to enter. The competition is open to organisations from the private, public and third sectors, including charities. Focussing on different healthcare challenges, successful projects from each ‘themed’ competition will be selected primarily on their potential value to the health service and on the improved outcomes delivered for patients.
In the latest round of competitions, SBRI Healthcare will be looking for companies specifically focused on driving towards better health outcomes for patients across seven categories; Cancer, Cardiovascular, COPD, Diabetes, Mental Health, Patient Safety and Diagnostic and Research Tools.
The competition theme areas have been chosen in partnership with the newly designated Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) across England. The programme management is led by the Eastern Academic Health Science Network (EAHSN) on behalf of NHS England and other AHSNs. Health Enterprise East is the management partner and supports the EAHSN to handle the applications, assessments and delivery against contracts.
TN: What key elements or qualities do SBRI look for in a funding application in order for it to be considered?
KL: Particularly important is to show that the product or services will address an unmet healthcare need. Articulating a clear plan to meet the technical challenge and how the idea will be commercialise are also key. Making sure the team has the right balance of skills, technical, financially and business wise, in addition to clinical input, is also important.
TN: What does the future hold for SBRI Healthcare?
KL: SBRI Healthcare is growing and delivering on the Government’s joint ambition to address healthcare needs and support successful businesses to grow and develop. Our plan is to have regular competition calls setting out the clinical focus of the NHS’s unmet needs and inviting companies to apply for funding to address these. We are also looking to build our support for successful companies in accessing procurement levers within the NHS, which along with Academic Health Science Networks will enable the adoption and spread of new innovations across the NHS. Since 2009 the NHS has grown its backing for SBRI from relatively small sums of investment to our current commitment from NHS England of investing £10m. When budgets across government are being cut back it is exciting to be part of an expanding opportunity.
Karen Livingstone was speaking to Louise Conlin, Editor, Technology Networks