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Merck's digital health accelerator expands into Africa

Will run new startup support programme in Nairobi

Merck KGaA digital health accelerator 

Merck has expanded its digital health accelerator programme, opening it up in the first country outside its home territory of Germany.

The company has picked Kenya for the new programme, which will run for three months and see it look for three digital health startups to support with equity-free funding of $15,000.

Merck Innovation Center head Michael Gamber said: “Africa is one of the most promising and dynamic markets for digital health, driven by a vibrant and innovative startup culture. With our accelerator programme, we aim to become part of it. 

“With our programme in Nairobi and our growing international network, we made a first big step to go truly global with our accelerator. We want to create a platform where the potential to execute ideas is not limited by location.”

In addition to funding, those selected to take part in the programme will also be able to make use of working space at co-working tech hub the Nairobi Garage and coaches and mentors from Merck's global network.

Merck has also opened the second round of its three-month accelerator programme. Graduates from its 2015 scheme included digital pharmacy app Apoly, which provides pharmaceutical advice and a medication delivery service.

The programme's next round comes with equity-free funding of €25,000, regular coaching and office space at the Merck Innovation Center at its Darmstadt headquarters.

The company said the two programmes would be “strongly connected in terms of expertise and knowledge exchange to grow a global accelerator network”.

“Coming from a global company we also want to develop our accelerator programme to become a global platform. The execution of an idea should not be limited by the conditions of the location where it was born,” said Gamber.

There's a growing trend for pharma firms, and other less traditional health players, to look for digital health companies to support and potentially partner with. 

One of the first was Bayer with its Grants4Apps programme, with Merck Sharp & Dohme - via its Velocity Health collaboration - and Microsoft among those also active in this area.

3rd February 2016

From: Marketing, Healthcare

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