Our interview partner Dr. Jochen Hurlebaus, project initiator of Startup Creasphere and Head of Digital Health Innovation at Roche Diagnostics International.
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Startup Creasphere: An Equal Partner for Digital Healthcare Startups

With Startup Creasphere, Munich has had an accelerator since 2018 that focuses solely on the topic of digital healthcare. The accelerator was founded by the pharmaceutical company Roche in collaboration with the seed investor Plug and Play. More partners have gotten on board since, including Sanofi Consumer Healthcare, Lonza and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The program has proven successful and is currently working with its fifth batch. Dr. Jochen Hurlebaus, project initiator of Startup Creasphere and Head of Digital Health Innovation at Roche Diagnostics International, talks about the approach taken by Startup Creasphere, the trends of the year and what makes the Munich ecosystem so unique in the field of digital healthcare.

Munich Startup: Startup Creasphere — what do you do exactly?

Jochen Hurlebaus: Digitization has brought with it one of the biggest upheavals in the history of the healthcare industry — and is also a major opportunity for the future of patient care. To take advantage of this opportunity, we feel the various players such as healthcare companies, startups, healthcare providers and politicians need to work together and use their different strengths.

That is why we launched Startup Creasphere in February 2018 as the first accelerator in Munich to focus on digital healthcare. It is now one of the largest innovation hubs for healthcare in Europe.

We run two batches every year and are currently working with our fifth batch. In total, we have worked with more than 30 startups from around the globe. Our goal: With Startup Creasphere, we want to break new ground and promote innovation, new ways of thinking and mutual learning from startups and industry.

Munich Startup: How exactly does Roche work with startups at Startup Creasphere? What is the focus of your collaboration?

Jochen Hurlebaus: Our main objective in the batches is for everyone to be able to fully contribute their strengths. That is the best way to (further) develop and validate promising ideas and technologies in a batch cycle of approximately twelve weeks.

Equal partners

We see ourselves as partners on equal footing with startups. “Co-creation” is of particular importance to us. Every startup works with experts from the business segments on a concrete pilot project. At the same time, mentors share helpful market insight and expertise. At the end of a pilot project, they usually have their proof of concept.

Open communication and changes in perspective during collaboration give both parties fresh momentum. Our strategic areas of focus most particularly include new approaches that usefully complement our core lines of business at Roche, such as big data, digital biomarkers, clinical algorithms or decision support.

Our goal is to accelerate research and development and to put new digital products on the market to provide improved care for patients through personalized medicine.

Munich Startup: What prerequisites should a startup fulfill to successfully participate in Startup Creasphere?

Jochen Hurlebaus: We focus on a high degree of overlap with Roche in terms of topic and strategy, which provides a clear connecting factor for the startups and mentors.

Moreover, when selecting and evaluating applications, we pay attention to criteria such as USPs, technological aspects, the founding team and the degree of maturity of their digital applications. They should already have an MVP (note from editor: minimum viable product) to ensure productive collaboration.

Munich Startup: How do startups benefit from participating in an accelerator like Startup Creasphere?

Jochen Hurlebaus: The highly regulated healthcare market often makes it difficult for startups even when they have highly promising products, because they lack the experience and resources to fulfill the regulatory requirements from country to country as well as access to global distribution channels. Working with an experienced global player in the healthcare industry can therefore give them key advantages.

Mentors, know-how & networking

First and foremost, experienced mentors help startups make concrete progress on their projects and to acquire business know-how. The coaches offer support for different aspects of their product and business model. By interacting with a leading pharmaceutical and diagnostic company, they can also make valuable contacts in the industry and are given access to the global Roche network.

Munich Startup: The trend of the year is…!

Jochen Hurlebaus: … due to current events, unfortunately solutions for COVID-19. With tests, we at Roche want to make a contribution and, fortunately, several startups from previous batches and our current batch such as Medicus, Infermedia and CloudMedx responded very quickly and are working on solutions.

Moreover, holistic disease management is also a central topic this year. New digital solutions will make it increasingly possible to holistically monitor the entire healthcare process of a patient in the future, from preventative care to early screening to successful treatment management.

Munich Startup: What makes the Munich startup scene so special?

Jochen Hurlebaus: The Munich startup scene has been very active for several years now, especially in B2B — despite the fact that it still receives less public recognition when compared to Berlin with its focus on eCommerce and retail.

A unique ecosystem in the field of digital healthcare

Munich offers a unique ecosystem in the field of digital healthcare in particular. In addition to two internationally renowned universities, the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU), both of whom are very much involved with support programs for startups, there are also many large tech companies such as Google and Microsoft and numerous pharmaceutical and diagnostic companies located in Munich.

Furthermore, Startup Creasphere is located near other industry programs such as Insurtech Hub Munich, which makes it possible for startups to benefit from sharing ideas across industry boundaries.

Munich Startup: Last but not least: How can startups apply to cooperate with Roche?

Jochen Hurlebaus: Through our website www.startupcreasphere.com.