Entering difficult markets

Helping people to learn about innovating into difficult markets – healthcare

A learning programme is offered by SetSquared to support healthcare innovators in the West of England – an intensive four days, open to healthcare professionals, health and life science academics, small businesses and public contributors alike (but you still need actual help from inside the NHS). 

This programme is for people who have seen an opportunity for a product or service that would have benefits in healthcare; and are ‘passionate about taking their proposition forward, and committed to delivering it’.

The course, conceived in partnership with and funded by the Academic Health Sciences Network (AHSN), and in future to be funded by Regional Development Funds, aims to provide

  • an opportunity to make a compelling pitch to anexperienced panel
  • a great way tonetwork with like-minded innovators
  • friendly environment to try-out your ideas, and
  • a chance to get continuing support from SetSquared to furtherdevelop your proposition.

It focuses on

  • customer analysis
  • building a business case
  • funding strategies, and
  • market analysis.

It has been run for three years and some 150 people have been through it, two thirds from companies and the others clinicians or the private sector. A high proportion of these have had solid enough propositions to go on to take their project forward.

 An introductory session enables participants to articulate their objectives and their greatest needs, and to identify the right optional modules.

Succeeding in the NHS This module explores how participants’ propositions should fit the ways in which the NHS addresses new ideas, including the promotion of internal innovation and the “selling” of external innovation. It covers both the formal processes, and how “decisions to use” and “decisions to buy” play out in the NHS culture.

 Building Clear and Credible Plans This module explores the key elements and components of different aspects of business plans – the thinking, research and analysis, and the presentational format and logic – that need to be part of a business plan that is convincing to investors (whether internal or external, entrepreneurial or socially minded).

 The Complexities of Commissioners, Customers and Users This module examines ways in which the Healthcare and social care are complex markets where clinical guidelines, professional choice, personal choice, consumer purchasing and means testing cross boundaries with commissioning, buying, and free at point of use services – in order to help understanding, identifying and navigating these market complexities.

Market Analysis This session focuses on understanding the NHS’s criteria – in its rigidly budgeted world, and quantifying the scale of the opportunity, including: the scale of the addressable market; how the product service is costed and priced; how to arrive at the right “price point”; how to assess the impact of direct competition; and how to make a realistic forecast of time to market and the speed of take up.

Collaboration and Partnerships The session focuses on opportunities that can be created through collaboration and networking – from working with larger corporations with their wide access to markets; working with other small companies – with synergistic products and services; engaging with clinical communities that are a direct source of test-beds and support.

 Communication and Presentational Skills This session helps participants to understand their target audiences and to articulate their key messages and their propositions in different contexts, with three panel sessions with their peers and an expert panel.

Feedback A personal feed-back session aims to help each participant to identify developmental needs across their business proposition and how they might be met. (Additional coaching and mentoring is also available.)

(SetSquared and the Wessex AHSN have also collaborated in offering an Innovation Surgery – a regular panel of experts to help and advise individual businesses, including those looking for development funds or research partners, and sometimes (frequently successfully) introducing them to possible providers.)

Even if you are abreast of all this, you still need the help of those in the NHS who can enable you to make your innovation work for them. You need ‘a supportive network of contacts that can open doors to key influencers and patient involvement; and to harness insights of mentors, and expertise in networking and demonstrating how innovations support national and local agendas. You need an agile mindset, a willingness to revise and adapt innovations, and skills in engaging clinicians to persuade them of the benefits.’ (NHS Innovation Accelerator Evaluation – Final Report, March 2018.)

See also: An Accelerator built entirely on relationships A programme to facilitate the adoption of digital technology in the NHS relied on the persistent building of relationships – to develop, trial and establish successful innovations.

John Whatmore, May 2018

Correction 9 May 2017

The course was co-designed with the AHSNs, funded by the AHSNs and ‘delivered’ by Setsquared (but with considerable AHSN input). It is run twice a year, once funded by Wessex AHSN, and then again funded by West of England AHSN. The healthcare content, NHS knowledge and background come from the AHSNs, either directly delivered or through AHSN speakers/contacts; Setsquared provide content with business start-up and general small-business/product development advice.




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