Rise to success: 8 skills that are essential if you are an innovator - part 2.

In the first part of the series we discussed how entrepreneurial mindset, the ability to learn new technologies, advanced digital literacy and communication skills were essential for all innovators wanting to succeed. In the second part we will guide you through the rest of the skills that are worth perfecting in order to lead a thriving and profitable healthcare company.

·        Network entrepreneurship

·        Familiarity with Health Technology Assessment

·        Knowledge about Intellectual Property

Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much – said Helen Keller, American political activist, author and disability rights advocate. Although she said that in the early 1920s, her simple and honest words are true for today’s eco-system of innovation in healthcare: start-ups and players in the industry should focus more on entrepreneurship network.

As Waverly Deutsch, clinical professor at Chicago Booth and the Polsky Director of the University of Chicago Global Entrepreneurs Network wrote in an article, “the network is an entrepreneur’s best asset”. As simple as that. “More than 20 years of academic research has tied business networking to entrepreneurial success, demonstrating that networking is an important way to validate opportunities, connect to resources, and access information” – she added.

In the case of medical start-ups, this is even more crucial: in most cases we are talking about products and services that have the potential to improve the health and quality of life of many patients across the continent. For entrepreneurs in this field, it is critical to use a network and have relations with other market players – such as investors, hospitals, research units or government agencies – to strengthen awareness of their brand.

As the “Top Disruptors in Healthcare” report[1] – which is a review of the innovative medical start-ups in Poland, whose second edition was published in June 2021 – highlighted it, start-ups usually do not have a large budget and marketing resource so they should ensure the best possible diffusion of information on their products or services. “If start-ups intelligently establish relationships with key organisations in the network… there is a chance that more people and institutions will learn about its innovation.”

Entrepreneurial networks also provide learning opportunities. The National Commission on Entrepreneurship’s study, Building Entrepreneurial Networks found that entrepreneurs thrive in regions where they can effectively network with other entrepreneurs. “Regardless of their stated purpose, networks provide entrepreneurs with critical opportunities for peer learning. These learning opportunities matter as communities with more extensive peer networks in place tend to enjoy higher levels of both entrepreneurial activity and economic growth."

Familiarity with the systematic evaluation of properties, effects and impacts of health technology – in other words, Health Technology Assessment (HTA) – may provide great advantage for an entrepreneur in the market. The main goal of HTA is to inform policymakers about the clinical and economic effectiveness of health technologies. , Since HTA has an effect on which technologies are adopted in practice and to what degree they are used, therefore it is also crucial for the innovators to be up to date with the latest technologies and research findings. In other words, HTA may influence the direction of an innovator’s research. Furthermore, health entrepreneurs and investors often miss the appropriate value judgement and assessment of health financing scenarios of innovative technologies before moving ahead with the development process or investing in technology. Therefore, several new technologies may reach the market without a sound access plan. This is why EIT Health provides an early phase health technology assessment (eHTA) training, which is designed “to help technology owners or investors make evidence‑informed decisions about further investment in the development of medical device and digital health technologies, especially with expected public reimbursement or procurement”.

„Start-ups need to grow up fast and acquire knowledge and competences both on the technical and business side in maximum 1-2 years, from the definition of their ideas. They need to protect their ideas, validate their product, develop business model and plan, maintain financial sustainability and prepare their organization for the expansion from day 1” – said Tamás Békási, RIS Business Creation Manager at EIT Health InnoStars.These tasks can be really challenging for life science start-ups, but EIT Health, among many other ecosystem players are here to help, and deliver instant knowledge, network and cooperatives to make their progress easier and more efficient. Besides the must have knowledge, we integrate new, and in many cases, unique services, like Health Technology Assessment, to our programmes, which can grant unique value for our alumni” – he emphasised.

Intellectual Property (IP) is another field which entrepreneurs should dig deep into to be able to protect their ideas. IP, however, is important on European level as well since it is crucial to the EU economy. “Industries which rely heavily on intellectual property generate almost 45 % of the EU’s total economic activity (GDP). They are worth €6.6 trillion to the EU economy and provide almost 30 % of total EU employment. This means that protecting IPRs is essential to the success of the EU’s single market“ – claims a study[2]   published by the European Court of Auditors in 2020, which adds, that this is especially true in a number of sectors – e.g. in pharmaceuticals – where EU companies are world leaders. „Without effective means of enforcing IPRs, innovation and creativity are discouraged and investment diminished.“

“People tend to have limited, not-so-focused notions on IP. They think: ‘I am not a lawyer; I do not have the need to know everything about IP... in fact it is very important to dominate the fundamentals of IP. Tragic errors can happen and plenty of things can be lost if the people who are on the field lack this kind of knowledge and competences on IP.” – said José R. Aguilar, Lawyer and IP Legal Advisor.

[1] http://www.pfsz.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/ENGLISH-Top-Disruptors-in-Healthcare.pdf