Boehringer Ingelheim and Ashoka Spain: An innovation program to transform the Health Sector

A social innovation program to support teams of young entrepreneurs bringing the latest innovation to the health sector.

With a market size standing at 430 billion U.S. dollars, the global medical technology industry is in great shape. Established centers of this MedTech industry include the United States and Western Europe, with 27,000 medical technology companies from the old continent – most of them being based in Germany.

But it’s in Spain that German pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim chose to develop an initiative that promotes entrepreneurial thinking and propels social entrepreneurs to innovate in health, together with Ashoka Spain: Making More Health was born.

Whether it’s working on a project to reduce the response time of emergency crews to accidents, or promoting active aging for the elderly, these young entrepreneurs brought fresh ideas to the sector through the competition. One of the highlights of the program is the chance for the finalists to be mentored by Boehringer Ingelheim employees as they develop their entrepreneurial ideas, but coordinating this aspect was always a challenge.

The had already been running for a few years, but they were looking for ways to improve. Specifically, both organizations wanted a results-oriented platform that would make managing the projects easier for them, while keeping the participants, both mentors, and entrepreneurs, more motivated and engaged.

Bridge for Billions boosts the Making More Health program

That’s why the ‘Making More Health’ partnership chose Bridge for Billions to help them bring their program to the next level, counting on the digital program and proven entrepreneurship methodology. This allowed 12 mentors from Boehringer Ingelheim to seamlessly connect to entrepreneurial projects in the pharmaceutical and health sectors and use their expertise to support the entrepreneurs’ work.

Making More Health also took advantage of Bridge for Billions’ built-in Admin Panel and personalized the platform sign-up page to tailor it to their branding guidelines and needs. The Admin Panel also allowed program managers to conduct a smooth matching process between the mentors and entrepreneurs while monitoring the progress of each mentor-entrepreneur pair, setting custom deadlines, and providing feedback when needed.

This personalized, hands-on approach enabled by the online incubation platform was particularly impactful for working with digital natives. The entrepreneurs were able to receive support which kept them motivated and focused as they worked through the different stages of developing their business ideas.

“Apart from the seed capital, it’s really important for us to know that we have mentors – professionals from the sector – that can support our projects … and to get to know other young people that are becoming entrepreneurs and trying to break into this world too.”

— Eider Etxebarria, co-founder, Bizipoz, Forbes 30 under 30, Spain 2018

For 3 years in a row, Making More Health maintained this program of selecting half a dozen finalist projects each year that received seed capital of 500 Euros and 4 months incubation support through the Bridge for Billions platform. During this time, they also learned how to maximize the potential of their fresh ideas for the health sector. These entrepreneurs have since become part of an international movement of young changemakers who are working to improve their world.

The selected projects have joined the community of 46 health-based social entrepreneurship initiatives backed by Ashoka and Boehringer Ingelheim since 2013. Meanwhile, the 18 mentors involved found that the platform provided the structure and guidance they needed to become better mentors and allowed them to connect with their team remotely, which greatly improved the communication and logistics of working together.

“I saw project presentations from young entrepreneurs… and the question is always ‘Why hasn’t anyone had this idea before?’ They’re great ideas, with a ton of energy behind them, because these entrepreneurs are 100% dedicated to the idea and they bring a freshness and positive energy to it.”

— Holger J. Gellermann, Senior VP Medicine, I+D de Boehringer Ingelheim Spain

Like Boehringer Ingelheim you’re looking to build or grow your entrepreneurship program?

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