The UK HealthTech sector is positively burgeoning. Back in 2014, Former London mayor Boris Johnson launched Medcity – a joint venture bringing together King’s College London, Oxford, UCL, Imperial and Cambridge universities to create a new cluster of British activity in the sector. His successor, Sadiq Khan, kept up the momentum, backing the £1.7 million Digital Health London Accelerator scheme, which is helping selected UK SMEs develop innovative healthtech solutions for the NHS.
We’ve come up with a selection of the most promising British Healthcare startups to keep an eye on:
Babylon Health uses its own machine learning technology to match patients with appropriate doctors and specialists. They’re then able to conduct text and video consultations through its proprietary mobile app, which can also be synced with wearable devices and used for individual health monitoring. In addition, their service offers prescriptions delivered to your closest pharmacy, as well as the ability to book in-person examinations at local facilities.
Babylon hit tech press headlines in April, when it announced it had raised an additional £47 million in funding from investors. It already works with the NHS to offer an AI-powered triage service as an alternative to the NHS’s existing 111 healthcare helpline.
Thriva posts users an at home, finger-prick blood testing kit which shows their iron levels, liver function, cholesterol and vitamin D. The company then distributes the information to a team of GPs who then give user-specific lifestyle advice via an online dashboard. The aim is to provide reliable, easy and affordable tests, with plans in the pipeline to expand the range to include urine and DNA.
For those who might be reminded of the Theranos fiasco – when the US company was shown to have been a little economical with the truth when it came to its testing capabilities – Thriva is sticking to established and trusted testing methods common on the NHS, rather than trying to develop their own.
Andiamo was born out of its two founders’ personal tragedy. Naveed and Samiya Parmez lost their nine-year-old son, Diamo, who had cerebral palsy, in 2012. After his death, they channelled their grief into creating 3D printed orthotics and braces which are essential for children with the condition, but currently cumbersome, time-consuming and often painful to manufacture.
But by using a quick scanning process rather than long-winded plaster casting, the company aims to reduce waiting times from months to 48 hours, and to produce lighter products that fit patients more effectively.
Research initiative Umotif brings quality patient data to clinical researchers and doctors. Encompassing a user-friendly app for patients and a white label SaaS product for researchers, its biggest selling point over paper-based data collection methods is the timeliness of its data, enabling better patient care as well as much improved data quality.
It’s already been procured by NHS Digital and is involved in a range of clinical trials, including a successful trial for sufferers of Parkinson’s Disease in 2016.
Started in 2012 by Cambridge graduates Victor Dillard and Edward Perello, Desktop Genetics aims to help guide researchers through the complexities of the CRISPR Genomics Database reliably and smoothly.
It uses its own AI to simplify the process, and a Cloud platform to help researchers with the process of genome editing and discover the root genetic causes of human disease.
The vast majority of CTOs are in their element when solving technical problems or wading through complex algorithms and beautifully indexed code. But as any experienced IT recruiter will tell you, many of the sharpest technical minds tend to find other parts of the job – speaking in public, clearly communicating their vision, managing clashing personalities in a team – much more challenging.
If you want to succeed at CTO level, it’s often these soft skills that are sorely lacking and are worth seriously brushing up. The good news is that most CTOs face the same set of challenges and require the same combination of skills if they want to thrive in their role. We’ve identified five of the most important:
As well as a solid ability to communicate complex technical concepts to stakeholders and colleagues, CTOs also need to be able to explain the role technology is likely to play in other departments. Why do things work the way they do? Why are some features not as essential as non-techies may imagine? A decent CTO can explain their reasoning to everyone in the company, from the least technically minded to the sharpest member of the IT team.
Listening skills are often overlooked but just as vital. You need to fully comprehend what’s needed on both the business and development sides, get your head round any challenges – with product performance or development issues, for example – so you can clearly feed them back to all concerned. Make sure you test that people are genuinely understanding what you’re saying, and be prepared to rephrase as much as needed to ensure that’s the case.
Outstanding CTOs tend to be exceptionally curious life learners, eager for new experiences. The very best are constantly soaking up information on new technologies that might be worth investing in, making continuous judgement calls about which to take a punt on and which are more likely to be passing fads.
The most thorough CTOs are also interested in finance, marketing and any other aspect of the business that’s relevant to them, even peripherally.
Corporate environments can all too easily breed a culture of dehumanisation. How often have you heard colleagues referred to as ‘resources’ or ‘human capital’? The worst thing about this kind of language is the lack of empathy it encourages.
A top notch CTO will always try to put themselves in others’ positions, imagining what they’re dealing with, the pressures they might be under and desires that might be shaping their thinking. Cultivating empathy will ensure you can make the best decision for all concerned as far as possible.
Top CTOs are able to wear both their technical and executive hats with ease, shuffling between the two with barely a thought. A successful CTO can inspire their technical team to work effectively and enthusiastically towards a shared vision, helping them through any tough technical issues that might arise.
On the executive side, they’re capable of taking an active, essential role in board level discussions and communicating technical strategy to all involved.
Keeping an eye on the big picture
While technical detail is undeniably important, CTOs need to have just as strong a grasp of the broader environment technologies are operating in. This means everything from security and privacy policies to sales, marketing and the wider business landscape.
The best CTO knows technology never operates in isolation – it should obviously be your main focus, but lose track of the big picture and you’re missing an opportunity to push your organisation to the next level.
The Smart Speaker market has absolutely exploded in the last couple of years. While the original kid on the block, the Amazon Echo, remains a strong player as well as the most familiar name, its main big tech rivals have also been quick to get in on the action. With such an increasingly crowded market and range of features that can send even the tech-savviest head into a spin, it’s tricky to decide which of these increasingly intelligent speakers to invest in. We’ve weighed up the main current and soon-to-be-released contenders to help you decide:
Three years into its lifespan, the majority of tech commentators agree that Amazon’s pioneering offering is still top of the pile. While it may fall down on audio quality, it compensates with unparalleled support for a huge number of smart home devices, from Phillips Hue and LIFX smart bulbs and Nest Thermostats to Belkin’s smart outlets and Samsung’s SmartThings platform, which in turn provides even more connectivity.
The Echo is lauded for its versatility. You can easily sync its voice integration system, Alexa, to Amazon’s vast range of services, including Amazon Video and Prime Music. It also connects to an array of non-proprietary services such as Google Calendar and Spotify. This flexibility is keeping the Echo ahead of its rivals….for now.
Google’s smart speaker is, in a sense, ‘smarter’ than the Echo. It has a larger pool of knowledge to draw on thanks to its uniquely snug integration into Google’s huge search engine, and works remarkably smoothly with Chromecasts. The Home connects to fewer devices than its Amazon rival, though the two are much of a muchness when it comes to supported services.
Tech commentators have noted that Google Home is adding strings to its bow at a rapid pace, including multiple user voice recognition and hands free calls to anyone in the US or UK, no setup required. So, while the Echo might be most experts’ speaker of choice for now, it’s certainly worth keeping an eye on Google if you’re planning to wait a few months to invest.
Harmon Kardon Invoke
The forthcoming offering from Samsung/Microsoft boasts a notable feature not available on either the original Echo (the new Echo show is a different beast) or Google Home: it can both make and receive voice calls, thanks to its integration with Microsoft’s Skype.
As well as the ability to control a range of devices and connect to services such as calendars and traffic reports (though precise details won’t be known until its release later in the autumn), the 360 degree cylindrical speaker harnesses Harman’s audio tech knowhow. Its sophisticated noise reduction and echo cancellation algorithms mean it’s able to ‘listen’ over challenging ambient noise, and it’s also likely to have wonderful audio quality thanks to its pedigree. Certainly one to look out for.
Another yet to be released newcomer to the market, the Apple HomePod also promises to pack some serious audio punch. It features seven tweeters and a four inch woofer, which will – according to its manufacturers – give an extraordinary level of distortion free sound, which will obviously be fully supported by Apple Music.
The HomePod’s smart home capacity is less developed, as it uses Apple’s HomeKit platform, which is currently still under development. Watch out for further reviews in the tech press as we get closer to the product’s release date to see whether its AI lives up to Apple’s big promises. True to company form, the speaker also comes with a higher price tag than its competitors, and it remains to be seen whether the HomePod will provide enough sparkle to convert non-Apple devotees.