Healthcare Technology is a growing sector, with an annual value expected to reach $11 billion in the Middle East by 2021, according to the Middle East Medical Devices and Diagnostics Trade Association.
But with some investors hesitant to part with funding capital in the uncertain new post Covid-19 world, what is the answer for startups pursuing the next stage of growth?
For many healthtech companies, the answer is to look towards Abu Dhabi. Home to a government which is determined and committed to transform the city into a hub for invention and tech prowess, Abu Dhabi has welcomed startups in the healthcare sector from around the world via both its startup ecosystem, Hub71, and Plug and Play ADGM – a platform created with the aim of uniting startups with the tech expertise of Silicon Valley and allowing them faster access to market through corporate connections and matching.
Speaking about a new healthcare accelerator Plug and Play ADGM has introduced to attract healthtech companies to Abu Dhabi, client manager Valentina La Noce had this to say: “The platform is open to all players in the healthcare ecosystem, from hospitals and clinics to pharmaceutical and medical technology companies.”
Plug and Play ADGM: How does it work?
La Noce says: “Plug and Play meets with each healthcare partner, discusses their innovation roadmaps and objectives, and sources technologies accordingly for the program, which runs over a six-month period every year.”
Plug and Play hopes to attract 24-36 global healthcare startups to Abu Dhabi in the coming two years, which means the time is now.
Hub71 also administers an incentive programme to qualifying startups that offers plenty of perks, from reduced rent and insurance to providing access to a huge talent pool.
Dr. Shafi Ahmed (pictured above), an oncological surgeon at the Royal London Hospital, is a special adviser to the department of health in Abu Dhabi. He says the reasons for healthtech startups basing in Abu Dhabi are myriad: “The first thing is really how the local healthcare regulator the Abu Dhabi Department of Health is engaged at the highest levels to support, invest time and resources within Hub71, to nurture the healthtech companies from around the world who have come to Abu Dhabi.”
But it’s not just the unprecedented support at government level that’s so attractive – after all, startups need money to stay in business.
Dr Ahmed says: “If you move your project to Abu Dhabi, for example, it has big chances, because they can go bigger, offer more funding or more resources. So the advantage between, other mature hubs around the world and the UAE is that you may get more capital and better support, because you’ve got more investment capital there. In the UK, although we have a mature startup ecosystem, it’s more difficult to get that sort of funding.”
One of Abu Dhabi’s huge success stories is ProvenMed, a startup only three years old, which has already moved into the international eye-care market via its patented products and the network Hub71 has provided.
Co-founder Souheil Guessoum says: “The Hub71 community has given us a great opportunity to interact with international thought-leaders and experts, which has been very helpful in acquiring new skills and practices for growth. On the other hand, Hub71 has been very supportive in connecting us to government entities where we see potential for collaboration, through the specifically created Government Enablement team, which helps start-ups seek strategic partnerships.”
Co-founder and chief R&D officer Amine Staali agrees, saying: “Hub71 and ADGM have extended their support by waiving fees and charges such as rent and licensing renewals.”
It would seem that the right time to explore Abu Dhabi is now, particularly for healthtech startups who want to strike while the iron is hot in the new post-Covid-19 world.
“I think the last thing is about this pandemic is a global phenomenon, and it requires global solutions,” summaries Dr Ahmed. “The UAE has always had this global ambition to bring the global community together. It could be a real model for other countries. That’s what I like about Abu Dhabi – this admirable aspiration of redesigning, reimagining and actually being a test bed, but also a role model in the healthcare arena.”