Grant4Apps DEMODAY Berlin: Bayer showcases its fledgling startups

Grants4Apps is an accelerator programme conceptualized by pharmaceutical giant Bayer.  The 1st of December marked Demo Day where each of the five European healthcare startups had the opportunity to unveil their product. By Dinuka Muhandiramge.

I arrived in Berlin the first day of December. The wind was chilly amongst the derelict Soviet style buildings and the majestic historical landmarks.

The air was filled with the scent of mulled wine,  fresh bread, and urban sprawl.  It was exciting to be in Berlin; a metropolis of creativity and art,  and an innovation hub.I was in town to check out Bayer Pharmaceutical’s Grants4Apps accelerator program. The 1st of December marked a 100 days since  the beginning of this years programme, marking  a collaboration between five  digital health  startups and the pharmaceutical giant.

The startup space with colours and ping-pong tables

The startups who took part in the accelerator program were the danish startup Cortrium, Pharm Assistant, Parica, Fabulyzer and  Qompium. They were each given  50,000 euros, office space and access to high level managers and external experts.

At the centre of the austere headquarters of  Bayer Pharamaticals was the location of the Grants4apps office space.  The startup office was complete with a ping-pong table, a cool soft colour scheme and motivational posters with quotes from Gandhi. It was in complete contrast to the rest of the headquarters with its security guards in black suits and warnings about photography.

I was  genuinely curious about  Bayer’s Grants4Apps program. I  was told that this program was not about  ‘return on investment,’  and that  Bayer did not have  any creative control over the startups. Why did Bayer  initiate this program? What was in it for them?

Bayer wants to be more entrepreneurial

As a 150 year old company Bayer has established itself as a leader in the pharmaceutical industry. Bayer recognizes the importance of open innovation in order to be a competitive force in the future. Furthermore it recognizes the potential of fledging companies in impacting the future of the healthcare industry.

Startups  are unconstrained by bureaucratic controls that established companies tend to embody and thus their ideas and energy can flourish. Bayer essentially wanted to immerse itself  in the startup culture. “ We wanted to open our doors to the outside, explains Christian  Ullrich, Vice President & Head of  Global Marketing and Sales IT.

“Many top level managers put their ‘skin in the game.’ This accelerator program is not about return on investment, it’s about collaboration and learning.”

Happy customers in Berlin

The five startups involved in the Grants4Apps programme  were enthusiastic and only had warm words about Bayer.

“We were warned by peers in the startup scene about giant multinational companies exploiting small startups but Bayer gave us full creative control of the process,” a representative from the startup community tell us.

The financial stake Bayer is taking in these startups is minority equity stake between 5-10 pct.

Since 2013, when the Grants4Apps was first launched, the programme  has gained  a lot of traction.  Project manger Jesus del Valle  is now opening the accelerator programme  globally to also include Latin America,  Africa and the Asia Pacific regions. Unfortunately the US is excluded due to its strict regulatory environment.   Next year Grants4Apps will  also be open internally  for employees within Bayer.

Applications will be open in the Spring of 2015.

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