Business development 26 July 2017

Meeting the needs of the public sector with startup innovation

Shot of a scientist recording his findings on a digital tablet
Striking the balance between innovation and cost-effectiveness is crucial in selling to the public sector

Here, Steve Parker leverages his experience as CEO of Creavo Medical Technologies, a medtech company supplying the NHS with innovative products, to provide advice for startup founders looking to do business in the public sector.

For any fledgling business, starting out is never easy – and as any business owner knows, there are many risks associated with trying to build an established reputation. This is particularly challenging in a competitive marketplace that is reliant on the backing of the public sector, in which everyone is trying to get themselves noticed for providing cost-effective offerings.

Startup businesses need to meet the needs of their target markets by offering a product or service that helps them make improvements, without breaking the bank.

This is especially the case for medtech firms aiming to market new healthcare innovations to NHS decision-makers who are more reluctant than ever to spend money, or secure backing from investors who know the industry inside and out.

Don’t just focus on the product

The demise of many small businesses is often down to the founder’s passion overshadowing their business sense. You can have the most innovative idea that larger competitors haven’t thought of yet, inject lots of money, time and effort into it and feel proud knowing you have created something ground-breaking.

But, if it’s financially unsuitable for a public sector audience – meaning they will have to wait a long time to see a return on investment – it simply won’t take off.

You need a strong team that can provide the best of both worlds: the technical vision as well as the consumer insight and financial know-how.

Listen to the woes of your industry

Throughout the process of creating a new product, you need to put the purpose of the product at the forefront rather than reflect on how impressive it is.

Ask yourself what issues are you trying to combat with this product? In healthcare for example, how can it revolutionise patient care, or maximise efficiency and change the way healthcare professionals use technology for the better?

Finding that crucial gap in the market and homing in on it will help your business progress.

At Creavo Medical Technologies, we focused on one specific problem that has a huge impact on A&E departments – chest pain. Chest pain is one of most common types of admissions into A&E and currently only a small number of patients can quickly be identified as “non-cardiac” at initial presentation.

Our non-invasive scanning device, Vitalscan, can help physicians rule out non-cardiac patients in just three to five minutes, saving valuable time, resources and bed space. Financially, the device has the potential to save the NHS up to £200m a year.

Take all feedback on board

For most businesses looking to break into the public sector, consumer insight is incredibly useful and market research should never be ignored, whether it be through trials, focus groups or surveys. It can help you make sure your product is heading in the right direction and meets the needs of the people you’re targeting.

The medtech industry, for example, is an expensive one, often requiring significant funding and support from investors. So, paying attention to any feedback through a consumer insight exercise is a must to ensure you’re not wasting your money developing a product that doesn’t meet the NHS’ requirements.

Our device is currently at clinical trials across four major UK hospitals with some of the busiest A&E departments. Every bit of feedback we are getting, not just from NHS staff but also from chest pain patients, is being treated with the upmost importance and could influence any further improvements before we officially launch the product.

With public sector organisations under increasing pressure, starting out and surviving in today’s climate is a brave and daring endeavour.

If new enterprises want to succeed in getting their ideas from concept to market, impressing potential investors and making a real difference, they need to find that fine balance between innovation and cost-effectiveness.

Steve Parker is CEO of Creavo Medical Technologies

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