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Get export ready: International support for health innovators

Written by: Dr Neville Young, Director of Enterprise and Innovation - 26th April 2021

The international market is more important than ever for UK based healthtech businesses. The NHS remains a valuable but tough market so having a diverse approach to your potential customer base is really important. Be confident! UK healthtech innovation is as good as you see anywhere in the world, your great products will sell well everywhere and having an NHS customer in place helps. In a post-Brexit world and as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be opportunities for healthtech businesses with the drive to tap into the support available and reach out these markets. If you do it properly you can drive sales, increase cash flow and support the growth of your business.

If you are an innovator the questions you are probably thinking about is when to start working on your international export strategy?

This is a question we hear more and more in the Yorkshire & Humber AHSN and across the wider AHSN Network. Our normal reply is “now – or maybe even yesterday” and really if we are honest, we would encourage any UK based business planning to supply to health and social care market, no matter how early they are on their journey, to start thinking about their international strategy right from the start.

The UK is a tough market to grow in, having other markets that may bring in additional revenue that help you evolve and develop your business back in the UK is on paper, a no brainer. However, doing this takes time, effort and money but if done properly, it can be very rewarding. And importantly, there is help and support available to ensure you make the right decisions and maximise returns for your efforts.

How we can help you

The AHSN Network works in close partnership with the Department of International Trade (DIT) and trade bodies such as the Association of British Healthtech Industries (ABHI) and others to support companies looking to expand into international markets. Did you know that DIT works closely with the ABHI to support the Trade Show Access Program (TAP), which supplies grants towards the costs of exhibiting at overseas shows? They won’t cover everything, but these grants can help tremendously if you are looking to dip your toe into other markets.

There are other ways of getting started internationally.  In the current COVID environment you might find it hard to think international as you can’t jump on an aeroplane – but that’s just not the case. The ABHI have, like many of you, innovated to support the international agenda over the past year by creating the UK Healthcare Pavilion, which is a great low-cost way of putting you and your company in the international shop window. The UK Healthcare Pavilion will stay with us as we move back to a world where there is more travel, it will adapt to future show and trade missions supported by the ABHI, DIT and the AHSN to mirror what is going on the conference floor, facilitate meetings and help you drive up sales and revenue. The AHSN Network, as members of the UK Healthcare Pavilion will be using this platform to support the companies we know best, as they make their initial moves into international markets. Don’t just take my word for it – go onto the site and hear why Matt Hancock (Health Secretary), Lord David Prior (Chair of NHS England), Lord Ara Darzi (Chair of the AAC) all think this is a great way to promote the best of British innovation in overseas markets. Remember, British healthtech innovation is great. It’s second to none and the international markets recognise this and value businesses that have the NHS as a customer.

Finally, don’t take my word for it on how rewarding it is to work internationally. Read how a host of companies, who have been part the AHSN Network family over the years, have taken the plunge into the international market and made great progress. For example – Virti (a National Innovation Accelerator program alumni) have made inroads into the North American market with their VR / AR training software or Paxman Scalp Cooling whose unique scalp cooling technologies helps prevent hair loss during cancer treatment. We also have Forte Medical, whose innovative mid-stream urinalysis technology has been brilliantly successful in international markets, even making an appearance at the Oscars last year!

So in summary, I believe “international is now”. Doing it well will help build up your revenue streams, allow you to re-invest in your product development pipeline and make you so much more investable if you need funds to grow. It’s hard work but you will meet some great people, and remember, with a range of support available through the AHSN Network, the ABHI and DIT, we can help you think about how to start on the journey, whether it’s a light touch approach via the UK Healthcare Pavilion, or via Trade shows like Medica and Arab Health, or via a more structured approach to, for example, the US market via the ABHI US Accelerator program. We can help and advise you on how to start in a way that is good for you and your business.

Join us at our event

The AHSN Network is running the AHSN International Showcase on 10 June to share some of the support available to help you think about your international strategy and hear from healthtech businesses who have gone and done it as well as from ABHI, AHSN, DIT and SMEs who are selling abroad now.

Please click on the link to register for the event. We hope to see you there.

In the meantime, please reach out if you want to understand more about how to plug into this network and our colleagues to accelerate your way to international success.