COVID-19 Impact: Accelerating Adoption of HealthTech Startups in the UK 

by April 29, 2020

COVID-19

The shift to digital technologies and communication tools across the sector, in the time of crisis caused by COVID-19, is undoubtedly leading to a digital healthcare ecosystem. The pandemic has accelerated the decade of digital transformation as remote monitoring and telehealth platforms, AI-enabled assessment apps and devices are becoming the new norm. Since the outbreak began from China and spread quickly all over the world, the effect of it can be seen across businesses worldwide. Across the UK, startups have been badly hit by the coronavirus epidemic.

Despite this, some startups are working side by side with big tech companies to provide new services and technology. From tracking cases to assisting health workers and other frontline staff, tech companies, be it large and small across the country, are helping the government and the National Health Service (NHS) in the fight against COVID-19. By making strong inroads into digital health and the growing partnerships within the tech sector, many companies across the country are offering solutions by adapting software that already existed, instead of starting from scratch.

According to reports, healthtech is the second biggest sub-set of the UK tech sector, following fintech. In the last five years, the sector has attracted US$7.7 billion from global venture capital investors, according to Tech Nation’s Data Commons. In a statement, Minister of State for Health, Caroline Dinenage said last month that the sector has shown why it is a global leader, using its expertise to develop practical solutions to help the government and the NHS respond to the pandemic. The statement comes after the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak’s announcement of a £1.25 billion government support package for innovative young companies that don’t qualify for existing coronavirus rescue schemes.

Reportedly, the package includes a £500 million investment fund for high-growth companies. To qualify, a business must have raised at least £250,000 in private equity during the last five years. Moreover, private investors must also match any government investment, with the government taking a stake in ownership if the money is not repaid.

The healthtech sector, during 2019, received US$2.3 billion (nearly £1.84 billion) in venture capital investing. The companies in the sector have a combined turnover of £24 billion and employ over 127,400 people across 3,860 businesses.

The statement from the Minister of State for Health also illustrates tech companies’ coronavirus-driven response initiatives over every size, ranging from business support tools, online GP training tools and virus mapping, to temporary staffing platforms, data analytics and apps for NHS staff and medics. For instance, Siemens Healthineers, a Germany-based healthcare company, is working with the WHO to develop a fast-acting test to detect patients with COVID-19. Conversely, Unmind, a London-based workplace mental health platform and Big Health, which creates highly-personalized behavioral medicine programs, are also offering free access to mental health, meditation and sleep management apps for NHS staff.