03 Jul 2023
The Accelerating FemTech Project
The field of FemTech, short for Female Technology, has rapidly gained momentum in recent years, revolutionizing women’s health and wellness. With the aim of addressing the unique needs and challenges faced by women, FemTech combines technology, innovation, and healthcare to empower women in various aspects of their lives. One initiative that is making significant strides in advancing FemTech is the Accelerating FemTech project, led by the Health Innovation Network and supported by Health Innovation Manchester. In this blog, we will delve into the remarkable work of the Accelerate project and its impact on transforming women’s health.
The Rise Of FemTech
FemTech encompasses a wide range of digital technologies, including mobile apps, wearables, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and telemedicine, all tailored to cater to women’s unique health needs. It also includes offerings and products such as pharmaceuticals, apparel, education, and logistics. The FemTech market also highlights how certain health issues such as mental health and chronic conditions specifically and adversely affect women.
The FemTech market has witnessed exponential growth in recent years, with an increasing number of women seeking convenient and accessible solutions for managing their health and well-being.
From reproductive health and fertility tracking to menstrual health, pregnancy, menopause, and overall wellness, FemTech empowers women to take control of their bodies and make informed decisions. By leveraging the power of data analytics, personalized insights, and remote monitoring, FemTech has the potential to transform the way women interact with their healthcare providers, leading to more accurate diagnoses, proactive care, and improved overall outcomes.
Introducing Accelerating FemTech: Accelerate
This project is a collaborative effort aimed at accelerating the development and adoption of FemTech solutions. By bringing together innovators, healthcare professionals, industry experts, and women themselves, the project is driving advancements in women’s health technology through research, development, and implementation.
Part of the project offers a 10-week support programme that is designed for small/medium-sized companies (SMEs) from across the UK, which have early-stage innovations addressing current challenges in women’s health.
This programme is led by the Health Innovation Network with Innovate UK funding as part of the Biomedical Catalyst and is being supported by a collaboration of partners.
Building on the Health Innovation Network’s experience of running the award-winning DigitalHealth.London Accelerator, the programme will provide companies developing products to solve women’s health challenges with bespoke support through expert-led workshops and mentoring. It will support them to develop their product offering, understand the challenges in the women’s health space, grow entrepreneurship skills and engage with key stakeholders across the NHS and academic landscape.
By fostering interdisciplinary partnerships, the programme encourages the convergence of technology, medicine, and design thinking to create impactful solutions that address pressing challenges in women’s health.
Health Innovation Manchester’s Involvement in Accelerating FemTech
Health Innovation Manchester has been supporting several FemTech related innovations through digital and patient safety programmes of work and recent Accelerator programmes. You can find some examples below:
The Maternity and Neonatal Safety Improvement Programme (MatNeoSIP) is led and co-delivered by the NHS England & Improvement patient safety team, who work alongside the 15 regionally based Patient Safety Collaboratives (PSCs) and with maternity teams from 132 NHS trusts.
MatNeoSIP (delivered by HInM) build on the work of the Maternal and Neonatal Health Safety Collaborative, a three-year programme in Greater Manchester and Easter Cheshire (GMEC). The programme aims to reduce the rates of maternal and neonatal deaths, stillbirths, brain injuries and the rate of preterm births, as well as improving the safety and outcomes of maternal and neonatal care by reducing unwarranted variation and provide a high-quality healthcare experience for all women, babies, and families across maternity and neonatal settings.
HInM has supported the Balance App, which provides a repository of information, community forums, GP training and symptom tracker capability for women experiencing the perimenopause and menopause (and GPs who want more support). Balance has been supported and funded through HInMs ERDF R&I Health Accelerator, receiving health economic guidance and introductions to GM GP Practices and academics, leading to a piece of research looking at the cost and implications of separate menopause symptom treatment (with no overall menopause diagnosis) and women’s experiences of diagnosis and initial GP visits.
Kuppd have also been supported and funded through the ERDF R&I Health Accelerator. Kuppd is trialling and testing perfectly fitting and customisable 3D printed breast forms for women who have undergone single/double mastectomy or partial reconstruction following breast cancer. Kuppd have been working with HInM, MFT, MMU Print City and the Manchester Institute of Fashion to body scan volunteers, produce 3D printed prototypes and survey women’s attitudes to the breast forms currently available within the NHS.
The Real Birth Company, a digital platform providing evidence-based and holistic birthing information that is factual, open and offers choice has also been supported through the HInM Commercial and Industry team. The Real Birth Company platform includes the first multi-lingual antenatal digital birth physiology workshop which uses non-threatening language, factual information and positive birth messages to help normalise birth and reduce fear for women of all nationalities and backgrounds.
All of these companies and programmes of work were represented at the recent launch event of the Accelerating FemTech programme, showcasing how innovative solutions, easy access and choice can improve women’s health in a variety of areas.
Reflecting on the event, Vicky Bertenshaw, Research Operations Manager at HInM and panel member reviewing applications for the Accelerating FemTech support programme says:
“FemTech encompasses and supports a multitude of female health challenges, providing solutions to health and healthcare issues that specifically and/or adversely affect women, often in areas that have been left without innovation for decades. FemTech is often seen as a ‘niche’ area but it is not; it supports health concerns that affect literally half of our population and is one of the fastest growing sectors in terms of global industry worth and investment. FemTech specific funding has been in short supply for many years, so it is hugely exciting to now see funding and support programmes specifically for this area coming through and increasing in amount and visibility. I cannot wait to review what the next wave of FemTech innovators have in store”.
The Accelerating FemTech: Accelerate programme holds immense potential to revolutionize women’s healthcare in several ways:
Holistic approach to women’s health: By focusing on a wide range of women’s health issues, including reproductive health, menstrual health, mental health, and chronic conditions, the programme ensures a comprehensive approach to women’s well-being.
Collaboration and cross-pollination: By bringing together diverse stakeholders, including innovators, clinicians, and academics, the programme fosters collaboration and cross-pollination of ideas, leading to the development of ground-breaking solutions that address real-world healthcare challenges.
Accessible and personalized care: Through the integration of digital technologies, FemTech solutions developed through the programme have the potential to deliver personalized and accessible care to women, irrespective of geographical location or socio-economic background.
Empowerment and education: The programme emphasizes the empowerment of women through education, awareness, and access to reliable information, enabling them to make informed decisions about their health and well-being.
Reducing healthcare disparities: FemTech has the potential to bridge the gap in healthcare disparities by providing targeted solutions for underserved populations, including marginalized communities and women in remote areas.
As the programme continues to support and nurture innovators in the FemTech space, it will be crucial for policymakers, healthcare providers, and investors to recognize the significance of digital solutions in women’s health. By fostering an enabling environment that supports research, development, and adoption of FemTech innovations, we can unlock the full potential of digital solutions in empowering women and advancing women’s healthcare.