Pathfinder is free and open to existing and start-up companies in the life science, technology and digital health sectors. It is facilitated on HIE’s behalf by BioCity, the UK’s largest bioscience incubation centre, and provides access to fast-track “pressure tester” facilities, to help establish quickly whether or not a business idea will succeed.
If the programme delivers strong positive indicators for the idea, the business can launch a new product at substantially lower cost. If not, it can save time and money by restructuring it or moving in a different direction.
The programme kicks off with a ‘boot camp’ in September before formally getting underway on 1 October. Existing and start-up businesses are eligible to apply as long as they are able to join group sessions in Inverness for 12 weeks.
Charlotte Wright, HIE’s director of business and sector development, said: “Pathfinder provides delegates with six months of coaching support, access to a network of more than 50 specialists and advice about funding for their project. It is a hugely efficient accelerator programme that determines the extent of an idea’s commercial potential much faster that would otherwise be the case. It saves the business time and money. For ideas that do stand the tests of commercial viability, companies can pursue investment with more confidence.
The programme was piloted successfully last year with a number of teams taking part. These included the University of Aberdeen’s Centre for Rural Health. The Centre had been running its MIMEtm (Managing Information in Medical Emergencies) project at the university for five years. MIMEtm is a system designed to support the first person on the scene of a medical emergency – community first responders, a Red Cross volunteer or GPs who don’t often deal with emergencies. The team, headed by Dr Alasdair Mort, felt it might have commercial potential.
Dr Mort said: “Pathfinder gave us time away from the academic world to get to grips with the business opportunities. Grab it – and recognise that this is an amazing opportunity. You’re going to get coached by some real experts. You’ll have fun and develop camaraderie with the other participants.”
Another participant in the pilot was Dean Mann, director of business intelligence software company, Blakeseye, who said: “. . . taking part helped us realise that we have a product that we can start selling straight away. That probably wouldn’t have happened without Pathfinder.”
As well as applications, HIE is also looking for experienced individuals to join the growing network of specialists to support the programme.