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April 24, 2019

Hartford MedTech Accelerator partners lay out their vision

Photo | Contributed A rendering of the MedTech Accelerator space at One Constitution Plaza. SLAM is providing design-build services for the project. Renovations are slated for completion later this year.

A newly announced medical technology and digital health accelerator in Hartford’s Constitution Plaza promises to find plenty of synergies with the city’s two-year-old insurance technology accelerator, Mayor Luke Bronin said Wednesday.

“I think there’s a lot of potential for partnerships and cross-fertilization,” said Bronin, flanked by Elliott Joseph and Joanne Berger-Sweeney, the respective leaders of Hartford HealthCare and Trinity College, who are now partners in the MedTech Accelerator slated to open later this year at One Constitution Plaza.

Besides the obvious overlap between health care and health insurance, another reason the two programs could benefit from each other is that they will be run by the same organization, London-based Startupbootcamp, which runs accelerators in 12 countries.

Alex Farcet, a co-founder of Startupbootcamp who joined officials at Hartford City Hall on Wednesday, said despite his company’s global reach, it’s “relatively” unusual for it to run two different accelerators in one city.

The MedTech Accelerator comes on the heels of the Hartford InsurTech Hub, Stanley+Techstars Additive Manufacturing Accelerator, Upward Labs, MakerSpaceCT and the longer-running Impact Accelerator, operated by the nonprofit reSET.

“If you look back at the past few years at the speed at which our ecosystem has grown and matured, it’s really stunning, and it’s not accidental,” said Bronin, who is running for reelection this year.

The mayor credited private sector, educational and nonprofit leaders for helping put a new entrepreneurial shine on the city, one that he said aims to make it a desirable place for “creators and makers who are revolutionizing and transforming their respective industries.”

Will the various accelerators potentially be competing?

“Not at all,” said Farcet, who is based in Denmark. “The more programs, the better, as long as they continue to attract good teams. We’re all peers and happy neighbors.”

Bronin stepped up to the microphone to add to that thought.

“Somebody’s going to be doing that innovation work somewhere, we want it here in Hartford,” he said.

Trinity and UConn are hoping to link up their students to new opportunities brought in through the accelerator.

“We want our students to stay right here in Hartford and Connecticut, and to be able to find jobs,” Berger-Sweeney said. “All of this concentration will create a better ecosystem for all of our students who want to remain in Connecticut.”

For Startupbootcamp, unique factors of the MedTech Accelerator include the fact that state government has pitched in funding ($942,000 thus far through CTNext’s Innovation Places program) alongside private partners, and that two higher-education institutions are involved  (along with Trinity, UConn School of Business has also been a key organizer), Farcet said.

“It’s an interesting mix, and I think it can be a magic sauce for making great things happen,” he said.

Joseph said the accelerator aims to “change the narrative” about how people talk about Hartford and Connecticut, and to make an economic impact too.

There are billions of dollars worth of venture capital investments flowing into health care, including $14.6 billion last year for digital health, up from $1.2 billion in 2010, according to data compiled by New York-based entrepreneur mentor and investor StartUp Health.

Hartford must capitalize on that trend , says HHC’s Joseph.

”This is the moment for our region and our state to grab a hold of this and bring it here, make it happen,” he said. “We have the assets to do it.”

The integrated health system he oversees, which ranges from hospitals to outpatient settings to urgent care centers and the largest homecare network in the state, represents an enticing playing field for technology startups to test out their medtech innovations, he said.

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