How Startups and Pharmaceutical Companies Can Benefit from Each Other

October 20, 2021

How Startups and Pharmaceutical Companies Can Benefit from Each Other

The emergence of digital health accelerators has changed the way large pharmaceutical companies refine their competitive advantages. Find out how a digital health accelerator like the Bayer G4A Growth Track Program can maximize patient benefit and profit potential through early-stage partnership programs.

“Digital transformation” and “innovation” are among the most overused terms across organizations, with interpretations ranging from the basic digitization of documents to end-to-end platform integrations that change and personalize customer experiences. It is a chasm that can prompt instant skepticism about how digitally tuned-in companies are. And the pharmaceutical industry is one of the most notorious (only ahead of the public sector) in under-delivering digital transformation.


But the emergence of digital health accelerators stands to change this—and quickly.


We have reached a digital age where consumers can do DNA genetic testing at home for a couple of hundred dollars, run medical-grade electrocardiograms on a smartwatch, and use apps for symptom monitoring and self-diagnosis. Tapping into the speed and innovation of startup environments will set large pharma companies apart in the race to meet consumer and patient expectations for faster, digital-first healthcare experiences.


What are digital health accelerators?

Digital health accelerators like G4A’s Growth Track have the capabilities to straddle the best of both worlds. They can tap into startup culture’s agile methodologies and decision-making, investing in or acquiring innovative products and tech outside of existing innovation silos.


And startups can tap into established expertise, resources, and funding of pharma companies to refine and solidify their offering in ways that bootstrapping just does not yield. Founders gain access to advisors, regulatory expertise, investments, and product capabilities that would otherwise necessitate re-inventing the wheel. Every. Single. Time.


Harvard Business Research found that the number of corporate investments in startups nearly tripled over five years (with total value increasing from $19 billion to $180 billion between 2013 and 2018). It has been such a valuable shift in corporate culture that three-quarters of Fortune 100 companies have an internal venture capital group or startup accelerator (much like Bayer’s G4A digital health accelerator, the Growth Track Program).


Why should pharma companies double down on digital health accelerators?

Large pharma companies that have not yet established or grown digital health accelerators are so far behind the curve that investment and resources need to be channeled there expeditiously. Connecting the pharma industry with startups that are bolder, faster, and at the cusp of leading technology is how larger, matrixed organizations can cut through the very layers that are often inhibitors to innovation as we know it. And maximize profits through early-stage partnerships.


On the other hand, companies that have kept up with the demand for the pivotal role digital health accelerators and programs play and continue to tap into the next-gen of health tech not just at ground level but before concepts and prototypes fully crystalize. As a result, even through challenging economic recessions, like 2001 and 2008, companies that invested in innovation gained competitive advantages in the long run. The same is anticipated as the world re-surfaces from the COVID-19 pandemic in an “evolve or die” environment stimulated by digital’s democratization of healthcare.


For organizations like Bayer G4A, investing in our digital health partnerships program has led to a rich diversification of our portfolio with early investments in health tech that stand to keep changing healthcare as we know it. Since 2013, G4A has backed over 150 digital health startups that align to annual corporate strategies. For 2021, these key focus areas have been cardiometabolic and renal disease, women’s health, radiology, and mental health. Check out this year’s G4A Growth Track finalists here.


Future-forward in digital health

As Bayer G4A continues to evolve the criteria and format of the G4A Digital Health Partnerships Program, the key idea inspiring our next years of operation is “sustainability.” Our track record of partnering with health tech startups has led to incredible impact and gains globally. We are not focused on flash-in-the-pan trends and instead look to how investments in G4A partners can expand the reach and efficiency of treating and managing conditions with sustainability in mind. After all, as reported above, investments made by digital health accelerators are long-term in their payoffs. Our passionate commitment to scout, partner, and cultivate the right digital health companies will continue to amplify opportunities to deliver better health to patients and better tools and resources to the healthcare community around the globe.


Stay tuned! We will open applications for our both Growth and Advance Tracks again in January 2022. Until then, read more about the criteria for the Bayer G4A Digital Health Partnerships Program.