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From innovation to acceleration through the Propel@YH programme

Written by: Neville Young - 16th December 2021

In this blog, Neville Young, our Enterprise & Innovation Director, reflects on our Propel@YH programme and looks forward to supporting our new cohort to further increase the adoption of their innovations while contributing to the economic growth of our region

Propel@YH is Yorkshire & Humber Academic Health Science Network’s digital health accelerator programme. It provides SMEs with a six-month course of structured support and advice aimed at helping innovators access the NHS market, as well as enabling accelerated company growth and increased market presence.

Now in its third year, we deliver the programme with several key partners and suppliers including: Barclays Eagle Labs for financial guidance and mentoring, Hill Dickinson solicitors for legal advice and mHabitat to curate and facilitate the masterclasses. The programme is based in the state-of-the-art Nexus building at University of Leeds and supported by Leeds City Council with their extensive support and networks. We are also pleased to welcome *Pfizer as a key partner to work with their local Healthcare teams to support the cohort with a number of masterclasses covering stakeholder engagement, growth strategies and value propositions.

Propel@YH offers support and advice in five key areas: topic specific masterclasses to better understand the complex NHS market, funding and financial guidance, legal guidance, networking opportunities to increase their presence in the region and build stronger relationships with NHS partners and mentoring through group and 1-2-1 sessions. The SMEs also get access to various resources to support them.

The programme has had some great success stories: by supporting suppliers, £3 million has been raised and invested into the Yorkshire region, along with recruitment of over 12 locally generated posts.

Digibete, a SME that provides a platform for families to support young people’s diabetes management, is just an example. Digibete raised over £800,000 internal funding through the NHIR invention for innovation competition whilst on the programme. Since then, they have gone from strength to strength and their platform has been adopted in a number of hospital trusts and regional diabetes networks.

Ufonia took on two new staff members since the start of the programme, as well as working on projects with the University of York and Bradford Teaching Hospitals.

Vastmindz also recruited two new staff members since the beginning of the programme, with projects with the National Physical Laboratory and the University of Leeds, leveraging £120K in cloud funding from Microsoft. They were selected as runners up in the Tech Trailblazers 2020 awards.

Like many other businesses, with the outbreak of the pandemic, we had to quickly revise the format of the programme and move sessions from face-to-face to online ones. Running virtual sessions brought a number of benefits such as greater efficiencies and more time for online collaboration. However, it also meant that SMEs didn’t have opportunities to chat before or after meetings.

This year’s Propel@YH programme is all about taking everything we have learnt over the last two years and enhancing it. We will be working to a hybrid model of virtual sessions, when necessary, and introduce face-to-face networking opportunities throughout the programme.

We have also extended the suppliers that we work with to provide focused, expert support and plan close collaboration between the SMEs and local NHS organisations including the Integrated Care Systems. We will also bolster our mentoring and 1-2-1 support through a tailored approach to each SME’s specific needs and we are also working on defining their next 12-18 months spread and growth roadmap.

Further details about the programme and our 2021 cohort can be found on our website.

* Financial support and Pfizer colleague benefit in kind specialist expertise and mentorship has been provided for this programme to Yorkshire & Humber Academic Health Science Network as a Donation by Pfizer Ltd.