Life sciences and innovation – the (difficult) role of funding
It is needless to say that life sciences – like any other sector – need innovation to thrive. And there are countless ongoing changes that drive the life sciences to finding new technologies, new services and new ways to integrate these into system and supply solutions. Innovation itself is known to be a vital part of a growing and healthy company. And although innovation – in its literal sense – is intrinsically motivated and has a self-fulfilling benefit, there are numerous factors at play that can help but also limit innovation.
One way to drive innovation in the life sciences forward and to help overcome obstacles connected to implementing and carrying out innovative solutions and technology is to get funding. That way not only financial help is in sight but, leading up to that, innovation has to pass a number of revision processes throughout the funding application that can help sharpen the project, check legal and regulatory necessities (e.g. reimbursement procedures) and help scale and measure it.
Do we need funding?
The funding landscape in Germany and Europe is (thankfully) rather large and diverse. To illustrate one example let’s take the ERDF program of the European Union that is one reason we participated in the Business Breakfast for the “Leitmarktwettbewerb LifeSciences.NRW” this week. To promote regional development the European Union invests 1,2 billion Euros in NRW (North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany) of which 931 mio. are dedicated to strengthen research, technical development and innovation, part of which goes into the life sciences “Leitmarktwettbewerb”.
The funding aims at strengthening the part of money invested into research, the support of innovative cooperation and transfers, to fully develop innovative ideas (ready for market) and to close the gap between education and industry and facilitate knowledge transfer. Especially in focus within the life sciences are projects that develop innovative products and services in research-intense medicine, medtech and biotech concerning (bio-) medical research and supply, research-intense medical technologies, food analysis and safety, integration of medical technologies into system and supply solutions and preserving and improving the quality of life and social participation.
The guidelines of this example outline the funding ideas intended. There are certain structures in focus and certain goals intended that mean to support the overall collaboration and regional structure. When you are in this focus and develop the right solution, this might be just the right thing for you. If you are not, it’s not.
Let the funding begin!
You might say: “Sounds great, let’s do it! Let’s get funded!” But it’s a little more difficult than that. Between you and the funding, there’s a whole lot of paperwork and regulations and not to forget strategic business decisions to be made. The reality shows that very often application processes (and often decision processes likewise) are hard to grasp and to understand. The work that needs to be put into an application is often substantial and mostly differs from fund to fund. And you have to find the funding! Initiatives like the “Leitmarktwettbewerb” exist in several German states and support for small and medium sized companies in finding funding possibilities can often be found at universities or relevant Cluster-organizations.
Get informed, evaluate your resources and decide
Funding can be great but be sure to have your innovation at heart. How dependent are you on the funding? Will an unsuccessful funding risk your overall liability or the development of your product? Does the funding fully suit you or will it lead your objectives rather than support them? Have you evaluated the risks and costs and the market of your innovation to the fullest? Do you have the resources necessary to go through the funding application process and the time it takes until the decisions are final?
These are some of the questions you should have an answer for because otherwise very often these questions are going to pose a problem sooner or later in the funding process. In the best case funding and innovation make a happy couple but in the worst case none of the two will be there at the end of the process. And funding you might not need but innovation you definitely will.