An emerging HUB to spur health innovations in Nigeria: The NHIM story


For over four decades, the Southern part of San Francisco Bay Area, also known as ‘Silicon Valley’ has been a global hub for innovation and a breeding ground for many of the globe’s largest tech firms, including Apple, Cisco, Google, Facebook, HP, Intel, Salesforce, Oracle and many more. Home to a milieu of innovations driven by the convergence of a large pool of skilled engineers, scientists and other professionals from major universities across the globe, Silicon Valley has generated a tremendous amount of economic activity.

A report released by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) News highlights the significant economic impact of the Institute’s alumni innovators and entrepreneurs, whose 30, 200 active companies have created 4.6 million jobs and generated $1.9 trillion in annual revenues as at 2015.
The role that technology hubs (tech hubs) play in economic growth and development cannot be overemphasized, however the revolution of tech hubs in Nigeria has been gradual, slightly picking up pace in the recent 2 – 4 years with hubs emerging in a few major cities – mostly in Lagos, Abuja, and Kaduna.
Hubs have emerged from various regions in the country –Wennovation, iDEA, Co-creation Hub, Leadpath, Start Innovation Hub, Delta State innovation hub, ROAR Nigeria Hub, CoLab, to mention a few. However, several of these incubation and innovation hubs target Information and Communication Technology applications in finance, retail, and commerce.

Although regulated health markets can yield creative innovations with the potential to significantly improve access, quality and efficiency of healthcare services, there has been minimal traction in harnessing innovations in health for the Nigerian health market. Low application of innovation and technology in healthcare delivery, experts believe, is one of the most significant missed opportunity in transforming healthcare delivery in the country. Unsurprisingly, none of the existing platforms currently focus on health innovation or the use of technological advances in healthcare delivery.

There is no end-to-end health innovation hub in Nigeria, either in the public or private sector, leading to the absence of platforms for identifying, shaping, coordinating and spurring health innovations in the country. Although promising health innovations exist in Nigeria, they tend not to attain scale or create sustainable impact due to inadequate support system for health innovators on issues such as lack of access to capital, business and financial management and essential business startup support. Added to this is minimal visibility by investors, on compelling viable health innovations and lack of convergence platforms that create necessary market and technical linkages.


To leapfrog existing constraints and spur innovative approaches to tackling healthcare challenges through a sustainable convergence platform, the Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria (PHN or the Alliance) created and institutionalized the Nigeria Health Innovation Marketplace (NHIM) to identify, showcase, spur and support promising health innovations to tackle healthcare challenges and catalyze progress in improving health outcomes in Nigeria and beyond.
The marketplace explores and shapes alternative approaches to improving healthcare in Nigeria. As a result, innovations – technologies and processes alike – are birthed or made visible, piloted and ultimately supported with investments.
Over the last three years, the NHIM has provided accelerator support and market linkages to enable multiple health innovations achieve market readiness and scale. The NHIM is also building a sustainable convergence platform around health innovations and making targeted investments for impact in selected health innovations in the country.

Below is a snapshot of quick-wins and on-going impact of the NHIM in the last two years:


In 2015, five innovations were declared winners at the NHIM’s inaugural Health Innovation Challenge (HIC). The winners –Fyodor, Mavis, Mobicure, Salt and Einstein, as well as MDaaS– were awarded grants ranging from $ 20,000 to $ 100,000. These grant prizes were disbursed to the winners in tranches based on achievement of agreed milestones, verified by visiting NHIM team across multiple innovator sites including, Lagos, Benin, Abuja.

Furthermore, winners and other finalists of the 2015 Health Innovation Challenge (HIC) were enrolled in the NHIM’s Health Innovation Development Accelerator Program (HiDAP). A bespoke 12-month non-residential program that combines real-world experience with established business principles, HIDAP strategically provides health innovators with the needed skills, support, and investment opportunities to build sustainable businesses that benefit Nigeria’s health sector.
As part of the HIDAP program, the innovators were enrolled in a tailored immersive mini-mba program facilitated by the prestigious Lagos Business School (LBS). This immersive program included courses such as Financial Intelligence, Leadership and Negotiation, Operations Strategy, and others. They were carefully selected to educate innovators with proven theoretical knowledge and frameworks for business success. In addition, innovators were connected with partner mentor organisations, including the Dangote Group, GE Healthcare, GSK, GSMA, and other leading companies, to provide industry insights and technical support to enhance the capacity of the innovators.

At the completion of the 1-year HiDAP program, innovators were supported to develop Capstone presentations that chronicled their learnings and development over the duration of the program. These presentations were attended by LBS faculty facilitators, Academic Director, NHIM and PHN teams. Likewise, the presentations were followed by a celebratory close-out ceremony attended by several partner mentor companies and chaired by the Chairman of Zenith Bank, who also doubles as the Co-Chair of the Board of the PHN, Mr. Jim Ovia.

In a bid to prepare the graduating innovator companies, from the HIDAP program, for further equity investments, PHN completed an Investment Readiness Assessment through the services of a financial consultant to conduct high-level due diligence on all the start-ups and provide recommendations including fair market valuations for each business. These assessments were designed as a precursor to a range of investment pitches that was facilitated by the NHIM with participating investors from our pool of partners.

While the Alliance has made grant investments of various sizes into five start-ups, the organization has also provided multiple level support to 10 start-up companies since 2015 including CliniPAK360 and MATCHIN. Those start-ups have since recorded notable growth, with varying degrees of success including a few who have raised additional capital from other sources.

Similarly, in 2016, NHIM’s parent organization, the Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria in collaboration with the office of the Honorable Minister of Health conducted the Nigeria Service Delivery Innovation Challenge (NSDIC). The NSDIC was a competitive process to identify, showcase and select the most promising innovations in service delivery to improve the quality and coverage of Reproductive, Maternal, Neonatal and Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCAH) and nutrition interventions primarily in North-East Nigeria.

The objective of the collaboration was to identify key innovations within Nigeria’s health service delivery ecosystem that could be included in the nation’s Global Financing Facility (GFF) investment case. PHN also collaborated with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and other stakeholders to execute the challenge. It is important to highlight that PHN was engaged as the Technical Lead of NSDIC because of its track record in sourcing and supporting bespoke health innovations in Nigeria through the NHIM.

NHIM spearheaded the strategic and operational component of the competitive process. These included; Designing program approach and Stakeholders engagement plan; Developing concept notes detailing the layout for the challenge and the Request for Proposal to solicit submissions from entrepreneurs and innovators nationwide; Coordinating assessment of submissions; Designing and organizing the NSDIC finalist showcase, as well as, Coordinating the development of innovator profiles for the final selection of innovations to be included in the investment case.
Ultimately, winners of the challenge included InStrat Global Health Solution, PharmAccess, and Riders for Health, for their unique innovations in improving health service delivery in Nigeria.

While we celebrate the NHIM’s unfolding impact and milestones to date, we are equally challenged and inspired by the tremendous opportunity to position the health sector as a hotbed for aspiring innovators and ambitious entrepreneurs to channel their smarts and talent. Indeed, NHIM and PHN were setup to usher in an era of innovative solutions to Nigeria’s health challenges and yes, these platforms are waiting to be exploited to truly drive impact in health in Nigeria and beyond.

Let’s go!!

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