Drawing the curtain on innovation theatrics – Do startup accelerators have more bark than bite?

The accelerator model has become a popular innovation vehicle for many corporates looking to connect with startups. If done right, these programs can deliver substantial upside to both parties as startups receive the resources and funding to scale while corporates access new technologies and business models. However, accelerators have often fallen short of this ideal situation, which has garnered them a reputation of innovation theater.

Over the past few weeks, there has been a noticeable proliferation of accelerators within the digital health space as numerous new programs launched. Once again starting the debate about the role that accelerators play in driving innovation at corporates. Regardless of your current stance on accelerators, this is a sign that corporate-startup innovation is arguably more in demand than ever, as companies attempt to remain relevant and competitive in a post-pandemic world.

Accelerators have taken a lot of flak as being coined to be innovation theater. A term that has recently gained popularity within the corporate innovation space referring to any innovation initiative done to showcase innovation, but that does not necessarily result in significant business impact.

As a collective eager to see change within the healthcare industry, we should refrain from being so critical about many of these programs. These innovation approaches do possess the ability to drive real change when coupled with the proper level of leadership and guidance.

Let’s take a closer look at the accelerator as a model to drive innovation and what we can expect from some of the new programs that have launched with a focus on digital health.

What is an Accelerator?

Generally speaking, a startup accelerator is a company or program that supports early-stage, growth-driven companies for a fixed period as part of a cohort of startups. They aim to help startups attain success through access to resources such as financing, mentorship, knowledge, and network.

List of recently launched accelerators:

Roche Accelerator

The Roche Accelerator is the first in-house accelerator embedded within the R&D function. The accelerator aims to build an innovation hub and contribute to the local innovation ecosystem in China. The program will attract pharmaceutical, diagnostic, personalized healthcare (PHC), artificial intelligence (AI), and digital health solutions.

Future4Care

Future4Care is a joint venture between Sanofi, Capgemini, Generali, and Orange. This initiative is Europe’s only health-focused startup accelerator program. The program has set out to benefit both the patients and healthcare professionals by stimulating digital health solutions. In addition to being an accelerator, Future4Care will serve as an institute providing digital health resources to the community.

Elementa Labs

Elementa Labs is a program launched by the Mount Sinai Health System designed for pre-seed or seed-stage healthcare and biotech companies. The program allows these entities to explore ways to strategically align their efforts with the Mount Sinai Health System and gain access to subject matter expertise in healthcare and science, allowing for a better understanding of their customers and the potential advancement of their technologies.

PharmStars

PharmStars is a global digital health accelerator designed to change the way pharma and startups do business. The program aims to help startups better engage with pharmaceutical companies as potential clients and partners. The accelerator will initially focus on digital health solutions addressing clinical trial innovation.

AWS Healthcare Accelerator

Amazon Healthcare Accelerator is a digital health accelerator program focused on startups in the public sector. Amazon has stated they want to help incubate early-stage digital health companies to collaborate with their healthcare customers and partners. The 4-week program will focus on remote patient monitoring, data analytics, patient engagement, voice technology, and virtual care.

The new accelerators show that there is still a hunger for driving innovation through partnerships. Even after hundreds of failures of similar concepts, companies are eager to connect using the accelerator concept. The main challenge remains the same: impact! Only a few accelerators managed to find a right balance between being “just” a promotion platform for startups to get press coverage and the attention of investors and truly interconnecting the startup service with the traditional healthcare system.

To drive true impact, accelerators must not focus on spending time on tasks that are not directly adding value to the success of their program cohort. This is why many still see accelerators as playing a game of innovation theatrics, as often these programs create a lot of noise but are light on tangible outcomes. Instead accelerators should become the interface between company’s product and service development, deployment, member service etc. and the startup. Accelerator’s should be the bridge between the traditional operation and the “new way of working” of a startup. Capabilities like internal communication of the new partnership, managing pilots, slim contracting as well as defining and implementing the governance structures that are agile enough to work with a startup. The focus should not be on scouting, events and startup education.

R2G is on a mission to help rectify some of these challenges through our R2GConnect platform. R2GConnect is a global matching platform that can help reduce the burden that accelerators face in scouting and sourcing startups. Our platform provides easy solutions to find the most relevant startup solutions for your program, while accelerators focus on important value-adding activities.

R2GConnect was created to drive digital health innovation on a bigger scale by helping build a thriving global healthcare ecosystem. The platform helps to match partnership requests from accelerators, incubators, investors, event organizers and corporates on one side with digital health innovators and startups on the other side.

It is exciting to see the continued attempts at driving innovation within the healthcare sector, as the past 18 months has shown us just how valuable innovation can be. Only time will tell whether these accelerators prove to be successful in their endeavors. We only know with absolute certainty that startups and accelerators must ensure they share the same goals and objectives before embarking on a journey together.

Research2Guidance has done extensive research on corporate-startup partnerships within the digital healthcare landscape. We understand the challenges and shortcomings of various approaches while still recognizing the immense value that these approaches can deliver.

Get in touch if you would like to explore partnerships, innovation management, and startup collaboration as you build your digital health ecosystems.

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