What does healthcare company MSD offer start-ups?

Collaborating with start-ups through a new kind of accelerator

25 European Corporate Startup Stars reveals which large companies are doing the most to support new firms. These case studies highlight some specific examples of active and successful collaboration between corporates and start-ups.

A good example of…

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European Headquarter: Hoddesdon, UK

Geographical reach: 140-plus countries

Sector/s of interest: Human healthcare and wellbeing, and animal healthcare products

Works with start-ups through:

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  • Competitions such as the Heritage Provider Network Innovation Challenge
  • The Velocity Health digital health accelerator programme
  • The $500m Merck Global Health Innovation (GHI) fund
  • A dedicated facilitator who focuses on ensuring the success of each start-up MSD engages with.
  • Large-scale events such as hackathons and demo days


Why does MSD work with start-ups?

Global healthcare company MSD works with start-ups to solve business challenges, rejuvenate corporate culture, and promote innovation and collaboration through the Velocity Health brand.

How does MSD work with start-ups?

MSD is exploring how start-ups can transform lives, through its Velocity Health programme: a remarkable collaboration with Telefonica’s well-established start-up accelerator Wayra, which invests in new technologies that address challenges outlined by the NHS ‘Five Year Forward View’.

Working with start-ups helps MSD to innovate outside of traditional healthcare models – something it believes is key to identifying new and sustainable ways of delivering patient care.

MSD and Wayra have provided joint funding for a 10-month accelerator programme for four start-ups. This enables MSD to share its extensive NHS knowledge and experience, as well commercial and strategic know-how, in a way that helps the start-ups to succeed.

A dedicated facilitator for each start-up ensures MSD finds either a product or capability-specific route to scale that’s effective. Competitions, such as the Heritage Provider Network Innovation Challenge, also help to attract new talent.

What has MSD done to facilitate collaboration with start-ups?

MSD engages with start-ups mainly through competitions, such as the Heritage Provider Network Innovation Challenge, and its accelerator programme, Velocity Health, with a view to solving specific challenges – for example, developing preventative healthcare.

Velocity Health is still in its early stages, but is currently supporting four start-ups and is networked with Wayra alumni, among others. The Heritage Provider Innovation Challenge calls on innovators, entrepreneurs, researchers, designers and patients to submit concepts for products, services and solutions to enhance patient engagement and adherence to provider-recommended care plans. This ultimately improves the quality of life for patients.

MSD also runs the $500m Merck Global Health Innovation (GHI) fund, which provides growth capital to emerging healthcare technology companies, while leveraging the organisation’s vast R&D-based, global resources. In addition, a dedicated facilitator focuses on ensuring the success of each start-up MSD engages with.


Success story: Wellframe

Wellframe is a mobile solution for patient care plan adherence that translates care plans into manageable, dynamic and personalised to-do lists.

After using the Wellframe application, patients have reported feeling more in control of their health.


“MSD is increasingly including start-ups in its strategy. There is no doubt, this is the way to go”

Dolf Wittkamper, Corporate Startup Stars judge


What can other corporates learn from MSD about working with start-ups?

  • Partnering with a well-established accelerator, such as Wayra, is beneficial in the first ‘experimental’ phase of working with start-ups. It enables corporates to engage with early-stage companies at a lower risk and develop collaboration processes (although in the long term it may be strategic to internalise open innovation)
  • Competitions and accelerators tailored to specific challenges – for example, developing preventative healthcare products – can help focus work around social issues
  • As well as providing growth capital, an innovation fund can be a way to leverage other kinds of support such as R&D resources


What is MSD looking for from the start-ups it works with?

MSD is looking for start-ups developing digital products and services within the healthcare sector. Start-up founders must be able to participate in a residency at the Wayra Academy, and products must not have had a commercial launch in the past two years.

The Merck Global Health Innovation Fund is looking for companies that typically have current revenues, a strong business plan and high growth potential.

How can start-ups get involved with MSD?

For the Velocity Health eligibility criteria, please see the FAQ section at the bottom of the Velocity Health webpage.

To find out more information on the Heritage Provider Innovation Challenge, please see the Health Data Challenges website.

To find out more about Merck Global Health Innovation Fund, please see the Merck website.

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Image courtesy of SVC2UK CEO Summit 2015.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 644104.


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