Last year, funding enabled the continuation of insightful medical research findings, novel solutions and R&D growth. However, despite a successful 2021 and muted 2022, there was a belt-tightening effect on funding across all sectors in 2023.
In this blog, we explore some of the key funding trends that we are expecting to see in 2024. We look at the latest research from leading organisations, such as McKinsey & Company, Deloitte and EY, backed up by findings from publications by industry experts, news outlets and funding bodies, including Forbes, FemTech World and UKRI. We’ve broken this down into three industry sectors, that according to the UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) Corporate Plan are key in building a healthier, greener future: MedTech, FemTech and AgriTech.
Next week, we’ll be looking at some of the key trends in innovation across those same sectors.
In 2023, funding was hard to find
Last year, there were early indications across the industry of challenging conditions ahead. Funding was seemingly scarcer, echoed by a 30% decline in overall industry financing as reported by EY. The economy also hit start-ups and SMEs, where applying for grants became increasingly competitive throughout the year.
Those seeking venture capital investment were affected by the state of the economy, too. According to Medical Device Network, inflationary pressures and investor sentiment leaning towards risk aversion contributed to the total value of venture capital financing deals shrinking by a third compared to 2022.
What factors have caused this?
The UK economy faced numerous challenges throughout the year. For example, the bank scares and the Silicon Valley Crisis, which saw the collapse of two US banks, contributed to economic pressures and may have had ripple effects into the later months.
High interest rates, rising inflation, international conflicts and other macroeconomic factors prompted caution in many investors and caused some to retreat entirely, hindering growth for several companies relying on external investment.
Some investment management firms, such as Downing, predict that investors will want to see reassurance of company profitability whilst the economy recovers.
According to EY, the aforementioned ‘financial belt-tightening’ is likely to continue for the next months. Fortunately, there are national initiatives being put in place to foster innovation in 2024. For example, the UK Government announced last October that Integrated Care Systems (partnerships between NHS organisations and local authorities which collectively deliver health and social care services across an area) will be able to apply for a share of a £30 million government investment.
At eg technology, we keep abreast of emerging accelerator programmes that start-ups may find beneficial. Many of our industry partners offer such programmes, such as Health Tech Enterprise, EIT Health, and the Pioneer Group. We also work closely with universities – some UK universities have recently announced their plans to develop MedTech accelerator programmes. For instance, King’s College London recently secured £1.5 million from Research England’s Connecting Capability Fund to launch a fully supported programme that will help to translate medical devices to commercial success and have clinical impact.
As FemTech is a relatively new technology sector, there is limited historical data from which trends can be identified. Venture capital investment has seen an upward trajectory over the past decade, reaching an all-time high in 2021, slowing in 2022 due to cautious investors and market conditions but remained higher than in 2020.
However, 2024 continues to hold promise for investments and start-up growth within FemTech. At the end of last year, the Biden administration announced the first-ever White House initiative on women’s health research in an effort to drive innovation and close research gaps, whilst the UK Government has allocated £25 million to the creation of new women’s health hubs across the UK.
The AgriTech sector has also been on the receiving end of national macroeconomic conditions and pressures. Capital has been constrained and funding rounds have sometimes been slow. Towards the end of 2023, we gained early insight as members of Agri-EPI Centre into the merge of three of the four UK AgriTech Centres into a single “Catapult” structure. The new single entity aims to utilise nationwide assets, facilities and expertise to provide benefits to the whole supply chain and act as a gateway for funding programmes, such as the Farming Innovation Programme and Horizon Europe.
Recently, the UK Government announced a new scheme under the Farming Innovation Programme for 2024 to support farmers who are testing and trialling new technology and techniques on farms. Meanwhile, AgriTech-E forecasts potential international funding opportunities for the UK, reporting that there will be greater promotion of the UK’s investment offering internationally to unlock new finance sources from sovereign wealth funds, pension funds and overseas investors.
We are hopeful that start-ups and SMEs will continue to receive financial investment for their innovations even in these challenging macroeconomic conditions. Despite the likely continuation of a tepid fundraising environment, there is promise of an upturn across all sectors. Although an article from Forbes, where eight experts weigh in, advises that investors may remain cautious, government-led initiatives should help to thaw the environment
Start-ups could also benefit from support provided via accelerator programmes to translate technology into successful products. The team at eg is experienced in working with start-ups and early-stage companies to phase development programmes that align with fundraising milestones.