“When you get a great match with a startup, real innovation can be born in a short time”

Pfizer is one of the companies coming to Ignite Healthtech on November 28. In this interview, we talk to their Digital Innovation Lead about startup collaboration.

Pfizer is one of the corporates that will meet startups at our upcoming Ignite Healthtech, together with Bio Merieux, Capio, Novartis, Roche and Wellspect, among others. The company -one of the worldwide leaders of the pharmaceutical sector- has been a member of Ignite Sweden since the program started in 2017.

We talked to Pfizer’s Digital Innovation Lead, Andreas Svensson, about the benefits of collaborating with startups for the healthcare sector and how our matchmakings help his company find the right solutions for their challenges.

- What is the reason that Pfizer is interested in collaborating with startups?  
- Pfizer recognizes the impact that digital technology is going to have on the way healthcare is provided across the world. To ensure that we can continue to deliver on our commitment to patients who rely on us, we are seeking innovations from the digital health ecosystem that complement our medicines and drive the best possible outcomes for patients throughout their journey.
Sometimes the sizes of the company can slow down and make it difficult to focus on innovation on all levels, especially when it comes to areas outside the core competence. Startups tend to focus on a single issue or problem and aim to grow rapidly. They are dynamic and have an impact that is disproportionate to their size. That is why we are looking for collaborations with startups in the digital health ecosystem.

 - What are your goals when it comes to collaborations?
- Our focus at country level is to look right across the patient journey for local solutions that can support patients with improvements in disease awareness, diagnosis or self-management of their condition across a wide range of therapy areas. We also run a specific international program looking to identify solutions for more defined patient challenges in specific disease areas which if proven successful can be scaled across multiple countries.

- Which kind of startups are you interested in?
- There are many opportunities along the patient journey for digital technology. Improving diagnosis, supporting adherence and ongoing self-management are some of the digital interventions that, combined with our medicines, can support and improve the life for our patients.

Andreas Svensson, Digital Innovation Lead at Pfizer.

Andreas Svensson, Digital Innovation Lead at Pfizer.

- What can corporates learn from startups? 
- If both parts create a true partnership with the same goal and we put the patient first, we can learn a lot from each other. Working with startups is healthy for us because it gives us new perspectives, ideas and an extra drive to improve our business in -sometimes- an unexplored area.

 - How can the healthcare sector benefit from healthtech startups?
- Many startups are creating great inventions. If big corporates are supporting their adoption to drive healthcare innovation, the healthcare sector improves and in the end the patient will be the winner. All patients are different and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. However, medical treatment combined with digital solutions can give us new ways to treat our patients more individually.   

- What is the importance for large companies such as Pfizer of a program as Ignite Sweden?
- We can benefit from their experience and knowledge. Looking for startups with a specific solution can be very time-consuming. Ignite offers us efficient ways to meet startups and match them with us on beforehand set parameters.

 - Pfizer is coming to Ignite Healthtech on November 28. Why do you think this matchmaking is a good opportunity for corporates and the public healthcare sector?
 - When you work with digital innovation in a big company, you spend a lot of time on problematization and the search for digital solutions. In our daily work, scouting startups to find the solution we are looking for is done by following up contacts and actively do research or answer emails with short pitches. This is time-consuming, and sometimes the solution that you finally decide to go with wasn’t even what you were looking for in the first place. 
That’s why events like Ignite Healthtech are so good. During the matchmaking, you can meet startups in an informal environment outside the office and chat during the mingle with a company you have not even heard of before, and suddenly they serve you with an idea or a solution that you didn’t have in mind when you walked into the room.

- What advice would you give to a corporate that it is joining an Ignite matchmaking for the first time?
- Prepare and have some core “problems” that you aim to find solutions for, but at the same time have an open mind and think cross-border of how your organization works. Sometimes you can find something that you were not even looking for. It sounds crazy, but when you get a great match and the chemistry is right, real innovation can be born in a short time.

Ignite Healthtech will take place at the University of Gothenburg on November 28. The matchmaking event is hosted by Ignite Sweden, Sahlgrenska Science Park, GU Ventures and Business Region Göteborg, in collaboration with Umeå Biotech Incubator, Uppsala Innovation Center, LEAD, Minc, Sting – Stockholm Innovation & Growth, and Uminova Innovation.

Applications to the event are open until October 28 on https://ignitesweden.org/events/2019/5/17/ignite-medtech. 

Maite Bellon