Dr. Sylvain Moreno: Not-for-Profit Support to Enterprises Who Are Developing New Cutting-edge Digital Health Technologies

Digital Health Circle offers not-for-profit support to enterprises who are developing new cutting-edge digital health technologies, particularly in the areas of R&D and market alignment. Our company offers a value proposition, which we call Circle Innovation, to help with this.

The Circle Innovation approach brings together businesses (primarily SMEs), patients, healthcare professionals, domain experts, government, and other stakeholders. We then engage these collaborators to understand unmet needs and ensure that new health products successfully add value to these stakeholders.

The result is products that are successful at improving the health of Canadians and companies that succeed in growing revenues and scaling up.

There are a few aspects of this that are different from what I’ve seen elsewhere:

  • First, we support companies that have already grown past the startup phase. The industry partners we support already have a concept that has some degree of market validation and have shown that their business is ready to scale up. This significantly increases the impact of our activities.
  • Second, we provide our industry partners a pathway to access valuable stakeholder expertise. This expertise is extremely hard for small businesses to access, and conventional research programs in Canada do little to help with this.
  • Third, we bring together all stakeholders that might impact a products design to better capture a product’s essential attributes and help ensure product-market alignment. Again, this isn’t something that normal research programs help with in our country.
  • Fourth, we play a key role not only in developing collaborations but in ensuring their success. We do this with active, ongoing project management. This ensures project success by ensuring that we hit deliverables, staying on time and budget, and providing a safe opportunity for trainees.

Tell us about yourself?

As the CEO and Scientific Director at DHC, as well as an Associate Professor in the School of Interactive Arts and Technology at SFU. I specialize in neurotechnologies, neurocomputation and cognitive health.

I have also been a member of the New York Academy of Science since 2006. In 2014, I received the Early Researcher Award from the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation. As well as being the recipient of The Brainstorm Innovation Prize from Stanford Medical School in 2017.

If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

In hindsight, I would probably try to instill in myself that same impetus and sense of urgency that came from the Pandemic (and was not top of mind two years ago) to push for more digital health solutions ahead of the curve.

What problem does your business solve?

Developing, testing, and implementing new technologies is very challenging with a high rate of failure. This is especially true in the health technology space, as developers may lack clinical expertise, key insights into health care needs, and partnerships to drive product sales.

Small health technology companies want to succeed and grow their business but need help doing so. We fill that gap by supporting technology creators and empowering the creation of effective new health technologies that have impact with patients and healthcare workers.

The results of this are dramatic: in the last three years we have supported the creation of more than 120 jobs, have helped bring 11 new health technologies to market, and have grown revenues and new investment for our partners by more than $52 million.

What is the inspiration behind your business?

We want to create new digital health solutions for Canadians and grow our shared economy through our scientific expertise and relationships we have built across industry, academia and government. We envisage a future where our healthcare partners can limitlessly bring new health technologies to market and thrive at the same time.

What is your magic sauce?

Our expert understanding of technology product innovation, coupled with our exceptional network of industry and domain expertise, puts us in the enviable position of being able to bring the best minds together to develop solutions to resolve real problems that people in our community face.

What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?

The global COVID-19 pandemic has made it apparent that we all need better access to digital health tools for our health. We all need to be able to access doctors and health care professionals, even—and especially—during times of crisis.

We all want to be better empowered to understand and control our health at home. And as our populations in Canada and across the world continue to age, we must come up with innovative ways to provide the highest quality of care in a way that’s scalable and affordable.

Digital health is crucial to achieving all of these and I look forward to the growth that’s coming in this field.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

Health and medicine can be risk adverse fields, where the benefits of a new treatments must be well understood by both health care professionals and patients. But small companies often need to innovate quickly to create revenue and grow their business.

It’s often challenging for health care systems to mesh gears with small, agile, innovative companies. A continuing challenge is to develop and support collaborations between partners who can have very different timelines and expectations.

It’s been crucial for us to be able to communicate effectively with these and other stakeholders to ensure impactful collaborations.

How do people get involved/buy into your vision?

Health tech entrepreneurs are aware of the challenges they face developing viable products for the marketplace. We can help them mitigate that risk by lowering the barriers to access crucial resources they need to be successful.

For example, we can provide them with access to our network of health technology experts can be quite attractive to enterprises that are looking at not only developing their products faster, but also pursuing new business opportunities.

The cost of doing business with us is minimal. In fact, if a health tech company is already investing in R&D, we can help them make their dollars go further and significantly increase their return.

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