More than 70 business, academic and health experts from Sheffield City Region and beyond have been recruited as mentors to help health tech start-ups from across the world bring their ideas to market.
The mentors are working with the 24 innovative businesses who have been accepted onto the £900,000 AWRC Wellbeing Accelerator programme at Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park.
The initial one-year programme is funded by Research England and based at Sheffield Hallam University’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC) on the Park.
The four-month rolling scheme runs up to April 2021 and provides participants with up to £20,000 of support and access to world class research, academic, clinical and specialist business support.
This includes the knowledge and advice from a network of 74 mentors – the majority of which are from the Sheffield City Region – who are giving their expertise and experience largely free of charge.
The advice ranges from how to get products into the NHS and social care markets to cyber security standards and medical device regulation, from writing successful grant applications to marketing and access to investor networks.
Simon Butler, head of the AWRC Wellbeing Accelerator Programme, said: “We are so grateful to all the mentors who have stepped up and who are providing an incredible resource to our start-ups.
“Many of these people are from Sheffield which I think genuinely reflects the collaborative and cooperative spirit of this city and why it is one of the best places in the country to do health and wellbeing research.”
The AWRC Wellbeing Accelerator programme has received nearly 100 applications from the across the UK and abroad – despite launching in the midst of the global Coronavirus pandemic.
Successful companies gain access to world-class R&D capabilities for rapid prototyping through to precision engineering. This includes laboratories for product testing, support networks and a clinical research centre, although since March the support has mainly been virtual.
Participants range from small start-ups to more established businesses, based everywhere from Sheffield to Tel Aviv, and all have innovative ideas for technologies that improve health and wellbeing across the population.
These include a robot therapist to support older patients with rehab after a stroke to apps that encourage exercise via a buddy programme, intelligent textiles which can be knitted into a shoe and remote recovery solutions for patients with heart and lung conditions.
Simon added: “Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park is the shiny space in Sheffield attracting the brightest and best sports engineers, health researchers, clinicians and health tech innovators.
“We also sit in a city which has huge health inequalities. So, for example, here in Attercliffe and Darnall on average people can expect to be living with long-term health conditions from the age of 50 whereas for someone in Totley and Dore they can on average expect an extra 18 healthy years – an immense difference.
“The AWRC has been located here to help improve this inequality and we hope the innovations being trialled here will also play a part.”
Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park brings together a unique partnership of organisations with a vested interest in improving physical activity and wellbeing and a commitment to harnessing the power of education, research and innovation to deliver transformational change.
The 80-acre Park is attracting substantial investment in one of the most diverse areas of the city, which is acting as a catalyst for regeneration and growth. It is expected to create 5,600 high value jobs and generate £2.13bn in GVA benefits.
Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park Project Director David Hobson is one of the Accelerator Programme mentors. He said: “The development of the 24 companies is a shining example of what can be achieved, despite the constraints that we are currently working within. I am delighted that I can assist the companies with their property strategies and introductions to other organisations within the Sheffield City Region.”
‘It is essential that we provide an environment for new companies with their innovative products to develop and grow within a cluster of health and wellbeing research and operations.”