UK healthtech accelerator 'HS.' is building and scaling startups with innovative technologies that are designed to tackle some of the most pressing healthcare challenges.

The accelerator programme, which launched in 2018, supports a number of rising healthtech businesses emerging in the private healthcare sector.

HS. founders and the first cohort © HS.
HS. founders and the first cohort © HS.

Founded by an experienced doctor-entrepreneur duo, Dr Alex Young and Dr James Somauroo aim to fill the gaps in the healthcare market by helping entrepreneurs reach out to patient test beds outside of the NHS.

"One of the default thoughts of people when they often start a healthtech company is the casual assumption that they must help the NHS, and that they have a health product so it must sell to the NHS and actually, it's a case of sitting down with those startups and going through that strategy," Dr Alex Young, CEO and co-founder at HS. told Techworld.

The first step is to identify what problem a startups product and service is built to solve, to then identify the customer, which in most cases is not the NHS but the consumer or patient.

Its first cohort included 13 companies, filtered from over 1,000 applications. The selected startups offer products for dementia patients, amputees and more.

One of the startups, i-rehab, provides a robotic prosthesis to help amputees regain function and rehabilitation more quickly, while RiseIQ offers a voice bot coaching platform to assist dementia patients and carers.

The accelerator programme saw an increase of almost £500k per month to startup revenues in total, with improvements to the lives of 30,000 patients after the first cohort, according to HS.

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"We focus on the patients and problems first, rather than the technology. However, we want to focus on the tech co-founder specifically so for early-stage companies it's very important that they can build a technology in-house to reduce costs and help them pivot as they need to around key problems," Young said.

"So we pay really close attention to the background of the technical co-founder when accepting people through the application process. At the moment, we're really looking for people with a strong background in data science and AI," he added.

Based on his years of experience in healthcare, Dr Young claims that the pace of technology adoption in UK healthcare has been too slow for rising startups with untested technologies.

In order to tackle this, HS. emerged with the aim to accelerate healthtech adoption by helping startups validate their products earlier.

This is achieved by ensuring companies are selling to patients in a safe and secure environment, with tests rolled out during the pilot stage.

"What we do is we find products that patients love, so we have this thing called 'Patients Product Fit' which essentially means that even before you get to any stage of selling to a corporate partner you do significant user testing," Young said. "We've got a testing cycle and a patient advocacy group, so we are essentially trying to ensure that any products that are created by the founders on our program benefits patients from day one."

The products that gain momentum from patients are often seen as a significant point for entry to any organisation and sector, outside of the NHS.

The following stage then gives founders the opportunity to share data and benefits with clinical experts and mentors, from the likes of Healthcare UK, MedCity, the Department of International Trade and Orthopaedic Research UK.

"It's about showing companies how to set out the journey, as well as what's possible when solving a problem, not for NHS but for patients- that's what we've been doing and so the roots to doing that have to be very innovative," Young added.

"We've also been helping companies with links into the sector and a lot of the time they don't need the stringent level of evidence for the NHS and also emerging markets worldwide as well, whereby you can build sustainable businesses and then grow it to a point where you can access the NHS."