Scottish tech firms are transforming the healthcare market across the globe, from Edinburgh's Craneware at the forefront of the US market to start-ups at BioCity Scotland closing multi-million pound investment rounds with major investors. Today, we caught up with Aridhia, a company actively championing Scottish healthcare overseas, to see how they made it happen.
What does Aridhia do?
We’ve created AnalytiXagility - a collaborative data analysis platform delivering secure, auditable workspaces for research teams to engage personally, collaboratively and productively around data from multiple systems and sources in order to address complex data challenges.
We deliver AnalytiXagility software analytics services via cloud technology that allow our clients to drive innovation from data, with a focus on improving health outcomes through translating data-driven biomedical research into clinical practice and accelerating the adoption of precision medicine.
If you think about innovation, it only really occurs when groups of people from different disciplines and organisations work together, pooling their knowledge, experience and their data. This is especially true in the healthcare, precision medicine and biomedical research communities, which has stringent demands around governance, reproducibility and compute.
Here in Scotland, AnalytiXagility is the platform underpinning the Stratified Medicine Scotland Innovation Centre, and is supporting the Precision Medicine Ecosystem in using patient data to drive more personalised therapies.
We are also working with the NHS across England, as well as academic research organisations, life sciences companies, IT service providers and patients to help our clients make rapid progress with their data assets.
How long has the company been exporting?
Our first export was to Kuwait in 2008. We became part of the Kuwait Scotland eHealth Innovation Network - in collaboration with the Ministry of Health of the State of Kuwait, the Dasman Diabetes Institute, the University of Dundee, and NHS Tayside - to export our technology and expertise in order to address the enormous challenge of diabetes and its complications in the country.
The result was Kuwait Health Network – an informatics and analytics platform that provides clinicians with the information they need to demonstrate the quality of care they are delivering to patients and to identify areas where care could be optimised.
The collaboration was tremendously successful and was nominated as ‘International Collaboration of the Year’ in the Times Higher Education Awards 2012. Since then we have continued to collaborate with various organisations around the world.
What do you currently export, and where to?
AnalytiXagility is a cloud-based platform, so it is really well suited to exporting. Because it enables our clients to harness advances in technology and facilitates high levels of audit, reproducibility and governance, it’s ideally suited for large, ambitious, collaborative research projects that cross geographical and organisational boundaries.
The platform is currently in use by two major projects which are bringing people, data and expertise together from more than 40 organisations across 10 European countries. Funded by Horizon 2020 and Innovative Medicines Initiative, these projects aim to deliver an optimal, preventative oral healthcare system, and improve the understanding of the early stages of Alzheimer’s Dementia and how it leads to the disease respectively.
We recently partnered with a high-quality IT service provider in the Netherlands, Vancis. Together we are providing an AnalytiXagility ecosystem hub in the country to allow organisations such as the Netherlands’ University Medical Centres to improve multidisciplinary communication and data collaboration, and drive innovation in biomedical research by bridging the gap between research and clinical practice.
What motivated you to start selling overseas, and how long did it take?
Our business model was always to provide solutions to the major informatics challenges faced by our customers. These are challenges that are faced by research communities across the world, so the company has always focused on facilitating collaboration between partners to help gain insights from clinical data, no matter where they are located.
Within a year of launch we were working in Kuwait. We’ve been very lucky in that our partners have taken us with them – we were already working successfully with the University of Dundee and NHS Tayside in 2008, and the Kuwait diabetes programme work came about through this collaboration. Today we find that we are being referred by existing clients into collaborations across the world, from as far afield as Australia.
What is the easiest part of exporting?
What we export is a cloud platform service, rather than a physical ‘thing’, so we don’t have to worry about shipping and so on. Data, and the open source analytics tools that AnalytiXagility provides are universal, so our users speak a common language in that respect.
Although what we offer may seem very niche and technical, we are, in many ways, a very social company which makes collaboration easier. We have an excellent professional network around the world and meet so many people from various cultures who have the same goal of helping to find solutions to treat what are often life-threatening medical conditions.
And the most challenging part?
Legislation surrounding patient data protection can be difficult to untangle. Obviously patient security is incredibly important and we must ensure we adhere correctly to legislation both here in the UK and abroad.
Funding models can also be challenging. The way in which much clinical research funding is delivered means that sometimes projects do not cover Full Economic Cost, which disadvantages SMEs.
Collaborative R&D that leads to the development of safe and effective products that improve patient outcomes must be encouraged, therefore funding mechanisms must be made available that ensure that such innovations can be supported.
Have language barriers, currency changes, etiquette and culture ever caused you any difficulties? How did you overcome them?
Our collaborative, open innovation ecosystem approach is all about recognising and resolving barriers to collaboration, so we work closely with people who are already open to confronting the barriers that may hinder success.
We’re lucky that our clients and partners tend to be very enthusiastic about what they do - you have to be in this industry - and that functions as a common language.
Clinical research is usually presented in English so most organisations have English speakers which also helps greatly!
We are very lucky because our reputation often precedes us, so we don’t always need to explain what we offer without an organisation or researcher at least knowing our background.
Did you get any support when you wanted to trade abroad? Who from, and was it helpful?
We have had great support from Scottish Enterprise since the very start, for which we are grateful. They are a real asset to the life sciences community in Scotland. Their support goes beyond financial - they are adept at bringing people together, supporting innovation and creating wealth for the country, which is invaluable for small companies.
What advice would you give to someone just starting to explore overseas markets?
Consider your sales go-to-market strategy carefully. Once you know who your target market is, think about how you’re going to reach them.
Collaboration is the absolute key - if you have the right product for the market at the right time, make sure that you also get to know the right people - you need to become part of the community.
We really believe what we have to offer will transform medical research and ultimately save lives.
This year’s World Economic Forum Annual Meeting focused on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a term coined to describe the new generation of technological advances coming together to define the next wave of progress.
It wasn’t surprising to see precision medicine included in these advances, but it confirmed to us that Aridhia is at the leading edge of one of the most disruptive transformations ever to occur in human health.
Sometimes our progress can feel frustrating and we regret that we haven’t yet been able to reach as many people as we would like. However, we are pioneering new technologies to transform medical care and it’s therefore very important to get it absolutely right.
Where next? What markets are you looking into and where do you see the company in 5 years time?
We’re at the start of a long journey. Precision medicine is the future, but in terms of analytics and data maturity, healthcare lags significantly behind other industries.
In five years’ time we hope to be supporting many more collaborations across the world to realise the health and economic benefits of data-driven healthcare.
There are huge opportunities to make great advances in patient care so we are very excited to see what the future holds.