Impact on: SMEs

IHI / IMI projects are focused on translating results from research into real world outcomes – an opportunity for SMEs


What's the problem?

SMEs are important agents of change in the medical field as they drive innovation, have detailed technical expertise and can act as a key interface between the latest academic discoveries and implementation in industry. However, being small companies, SMEs often lack the exposure to the whole stakeholder network needed to optimise their products and services.


What are we doing about it?

The Innovative Health Initiative (IHI) is committed to supporting innovative companies such as SMEs which are often the home of niche expertise and play an important role in the development of disruptive medical technology. The Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) endeavoured to attract SMEs to take part in IMI projects and developed an IMI SME engagement strategy which involved explicitly embedding expected SME participation in call topics, preparing tailored SME communications for different stakeholders and disseminating those communications as widely as possible. SMEs can benefit from the open sharing of knowledge and data in IMI projects with access to large biobanks, laboratories, clinical centres and databases. This helps them test their products, gain expertise and develop new ideas. Thanks to direct contacts with industry partners, they also get opportunities to pitch their ideas and results to potential customers in industry. SMEs accounted for 16.1% of EU funded beneficiaries (by participations) in IMI2, 24.3% of EU funded beneficiaries (by participants) and they received 11.9% of EU funding up to 2020. Altogether, IMI attracted more than 300 SMEs to join our projects.


IHI / IMI is...

... supporting SMEs in drug discovery 

The European Lead Factory (ELF) IMI project was set up to accelerate the long, complex and expensive process of drug discovery that is critical to developing innovative medicines for global health challenges. In 2013, seven large pharmaceutical companies decided to pool compound collections and open them up to academia and small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) searching for drug discovery starting points. Thanks to this, SME Metabomed discovered a series of potent and selective inhibitors of ACSS2 (the AcetylCoA Short chain Synthase 2 enzyme) for the treatment of cancers dependent on acetate metabolism, thus advancing cancer metabolism research. Metabomed successfully mobilised significant additional investments based on this result.

In 2017, the antimicrobial resistance project ENABLE selected three SMEs which had already identified promising drug candidates for combatting antimicrobial resistance to join the project. The SMEs benefited from access to the top antimicrobial drug discovery and development expertise brought in by other partners to see their molecules further developed. So far, the antibiotic EBL-1003, discovered by the University of Zurich spin-out Juvabis, has been shown to be safe and well-tolerated in Phase I clinical trials.

A collaboration between the IMI2 Trials@Home project and the Electronic Components and Systems for European Leadership Joint Undertaking (ECSEL JU)  in 2020 led to the launch of a call to develop novel technologies to support remote decentralised clinical trials, which should appeal to SMEs in particular.

... supporting SMEs in data management 

IMI’s EHDEN project, which is creating a pan-European health data network and generating reliable evidence for health questions, ran free trainings for SMEs on converting health data to various formats. The project has assembled a network of over 45 SMEs that are certified to standardise health data.

FAIRplus aims to develop tools and guidelines for making life science data FAIR and they run an annual Innovation and SME Forum. The project has also assembled a training programme which they have particularly targeted at SMEs.

Custodix, an SME that participated in the EHR4CR project, developed the InSite platform, a portal that facilitates and accelerates clinical trial design and recruitment.  The SME was recently acquired by Trinetx, a major player in the field.

RADAR-Base, developed by SME The Hyve and King’s College London as part of the IMI-funded RADAR-CNS project, is an open-source platform to integrate data streams from wearable devices and smartphones in real time and store, manage and share the collected data with researchers for retrospective analysis. As a core part of the Hyve’s service offering, RADAR-Base is now used by over 45 studies with over 44,500 participants. 

... supporting SMEs in developing new products 

As part of the IMI EbolaMoDRAD project, SME Coris BioConcept developed a rapid Ebola diagnostic test based on laminar flow. This test can provide a result within 15 minutes.

IMI’s K4DD project aimed to improve our understanding of how potential drugs bind with their target. Sierra Sensors, an SME in the consortium, developed a molecular affinity screening machine that can be used for measuring drug-protein binding kinetics data in a high-throughput format and was subsequently acquired by Bruker, a manufacturer of scientific instruments.

iConsensus aims to develop a series of miniature innovative high-throughput analytical tools and software for the development, monitoring and control of mammalian cell cultivation processes for producing biopharmaceuticals. The goal is to provide alternatives to the heavy, expensive equipment that is the current state-of-the-art. SMEs have lent their innovative edge to the iConsensus project. As part of the project, the SME Presens has further developed sensors of pH, DO and pCO2 into new formats or new features, generating new commercial applications. Another SME, IPRASENSE, has developed its technology for cell quantification and preliminary observations indicate that it enables detection of early apoptotic cells.