Bridge the gap, and you’ll create great and positive impact


Published 13th September 23

By Mark Gostock, VP Commercialisation – Health and Wellbeing at Ploughshare

When we look at the research at Ploughshare, we often discuss how the research and innovation itself can make an impact on the lives of others. It’s a rare enough occurrence to be in an area that focuses on this as a marker of success, but we’re in a privileged position.

This gets me thinking. I work in the health and wellbeing area at Ploughshare, which is a crucial area for research because it has a very real positive outcome on actual people. Health and wellbeing is a very impactful thing when it comes to people – and I’m proud to be a part of that too. However, other technologies get a huge amount of a couple of very important things: press, and funding.

Let’s take a little look at some technology that is being funded a lot at the moment – we’re going to consider quantum computing. It’s a technology that, if we are being realistic, isn’t going to show any real benefit for you and me for probably the next 15-20 years. Because it’s such a deep tech being used for such deep things by companies with very deep pockets.

That isn’t to say, by any means, that we shouldn’t be putting money into researching these deep technologies, but if the timeline for actual benefit for the wider population is literal decades down the line – then surely a few more years with a little less money in there won’t hurt?

I am, of course, going to be a bit biased when it comes to this, but if there was a technology that could have very real impact on human life, in a much shorter timeframe, would you not want to be at the forefront of that? Would you not want to put your money towards something that can quite literally be rolled out to entire continents? I know I would.

Health-related technology is absolutely this type of technology. MoD research does, absolutely, have an initial requirement, but it does turn into technology that can be multiplied, and rolled out to hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions. And the time to get to them? Well, let’s say that most of the time it isn’t 15-20 years.

This is exactly where private investors can get more involved, investors outside of government funding for R&D. The challenge, however, is to convince those same investors to think beyond short-term investment, and think about the generation after next and the impact that investments can make. If you’re looking to really make a mark on somewhere, and on people, the way to do that is to look at technology and innovation that affects people directly.

If we take sepsis as an example – innovations that have directly helped and been in requirement for detecting sepsis earlier on the battlefield has an absolute parallel with the “real” world. Research within the MoD has been used to do exactly this, and is well on the way to helping clinicians, and directly impacting people’s lives through Presymptom Health. As an investor, your end objective is absolutely to get a product that as many people as possible will use – right? You get contracts that are used to push out a product or solve a problem, and the more people it affects the better.

Health and wellbeing do exactly that. If you’re willing to bridge the gap between product idea and actually coming to market, with a long-term investment outlook, then you are absolutely on the right track. Defence innovation and government R&D will always be constant, and there will always be funding of some sort, however what it really needs is the presence of that outside investment, along with guidance, to get these ideas from idea form to real life. Government money, whilst available to get things on the road, sometimes doesn’t make things happen the full way. The amounts that private investment can offer can severely outweigh what government can sometimes offer. Imagine being at the beginning of the next GPS, memory foam mattress, or microwave oven. A small price to pay and invest if the long-term impact and payoff is as big as it can be.

And with health and wellbeing research? Well, that human and financial payoff could be literally in the billions.