Green walls, musical aids and electronic insoles – the HSI Challenge Day

From ‘’green walls” designed to provide ecotherapy to help ease mental distress to wearable technologies and platforms for increasing physical exercise, the HSI Challenge Day on 24 June, hosted by Numbers for Good’s Andy Maud, showcased a fascinating variety of potential solutions to a range of long-term health conditions. Seven ventures took the opportunity to pitch for a £5,000 grant judged by a four person panel of health and social investment professionals.

Participants were questioned on the merits of their business idea, revenue model, market opportunity and experience as well as their strategic fit with the social objectives of the HSI programme; in particular, whether the idea addresses health inequalities.  Notably all ventures offered innovative ideas and a wealth of health and professional experience within their teams – the greater difficulty for most, however, was demonstrating a sustainable source of income and a clear route to market for their product or service.

The panel chosen recipient of the grant was Walk with Path [Path], who have created wearable hardware designed to reduce the risk of falling for people with mobility issues caused by injury, ageing and serious diseases such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.  Falls are not just a significant healthcare cost (£2.3bn per year cost to the NHS*) and physically detrimental: they also can lead to a deterioration in health and quality of life as individuals lose confidence in their mobility, reducing their activity levels and independence. Path’s solutions include an active insole, Path Feel, which provides the wearer with active feedback, and Path Finder, a system that guides users and can predict obstructions via the use of visual cues.  Importantly, founder Lise Pape, demonstrated a strong business case for the product and an affordable customer price point. (We’ll catch up with Lise in a separate blog post soon.)

Path's active insole
Path's Finder - using visual cues to guide users

Another exciting participating venture was Yomp, represented by its enthusiastic CEO and founder Ry Morgan. Yomp, which began life as PleaseCycle, and has already attracted an array of awards, positive press and corporate clients, is a B2B employee engagement platform designed to encourage greater physical activity by using friendly competition within companies.

Despite the diversity within the group of ventures, we noted a couple of key themes emerging.

A clear focus on enabling individuals to take control of and responsibility for their own health – this was evident not only at Yomp, but also DisciplineXGames,  an online platform focussed on relapse prevention skills delivered through social gaming, and Go With the Flow, a mobile app designed to encourage physical therapy for chronic pain. Recent developments in smartphones and wearable technologies (e.g. Jawbone, Fitbit) have also generated new ideas, products and markets and we would expect this theme to continue.

A shared desire to improve the patient experience –  Our other two participating ventures, Medefer and Hap Hub, respectively presented their visions for computerising the process by which doctors traditionally take information from the patient and trialling the use of ‘green eco walls’, brimming with vegetation, in psychiatric hospitals to create a more therapeutic environment.

At Numbers4Good, we found it inspiring to hear from such a variety of skilled health entrepreneurs – and we found the Challenge Day a great warm-up for the next round of our Health Social Innovators (HSI) Programme, set to start in January 2016 (applications close 25 Sept 2015).

We’re now on the lookout for more exciting health businesses for our HSI programme: in particular, we are looking for enterprises that combine clear medical and technical expertise with a defined revenue model. We find it is often the case that although healthcare innovations are likely to lead to long-term savings, the biggest obstacle is finding a way to fund such innovations in the short-term, especially given cash-strapped local authorities or health services are normally reluctant to invest upfront.  While this clearly is a significant challenge, it’s one we are looking forward to helping talented health entrepreneurs meet, enabling them to scale up their impact and ultimately improving health outcomes for all.

What is the Health Social Innovators Programme (HSI)?

The health social innovators’ programme is supporting and accelerating the growth of promising, early-stage social health ventures across England in order to stimulate innovation and create positive change in healthcare. The programme is a collaboration between Healthbox, UCL Business and Numbers4Good, together with strategic partner Trafford Housing Trust, with backing from the Cabinet Office’s social incubator fund and Janssen Healthcare Innovation.

UK entrepreneurs with innovations that generate a social impact in healthcare are encouraged to apply to our programme by 12pm on 25 September. The program will start in January 2016. For more details or to apply, please go to http://www.healthsocialinnovators.org for more details.

*http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg161/resources/falls-update-final-scope2

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