Swarm of Applicants Vying for New York City’s Health Tech Grants

2/12/13Follow @tanseyverse

Supporters of New York City’s rising health IT sector are poring over scores of applications this week for $100,000 city grants to help young companies test-drive their health tech products by working with major New York health care providers.

Jean-Luc Neptune of Health 2.0 says a mass of application submissions arrived in a flurry on Sunday, Feb. 10, the last day to put in a bid.

“We got over a hundred, and we’re still counting,” says Neptune.

Health 2.0 is one of three organizations managing the Pilot Health Tech NYC grant competition for the New York City Economic Development Corporation, which has $1 million to spend on 10 or more partnerships between innovative startups and medical care hosts such as New York Presbyterian Hospital. The maximum grant is $100,000.

Neptune says he’s beginning to sift through the grant hopefuls, along with his partners from the health tech accelerator organizations StartUp Health and Blueprint Health. They’re working at Blueprint’s SoHo 12,000-square-foot loft space on lower Broadway, where Blueprint provides coworking space for New York healthcare entrepreneurs.

Jean-Luc Neptune of Health 2.0

Jean-Luc Neptune of Health 2.0

The team evaluating the Pilot applications will be looking for early-stage health IT companies whose products best match the interests of the hospitals and other New York institutions that have agreed to participate in a partnership to try out health tech innovations.

The companies chosen will be invited to matchmaking sessions on February 20 and 21. The company-provider pairs can then compete for the final grant selection by sending in full plans for their partnership goals by May 27. Some health tech companies have already gotten a jump on the competition by starting their own talks with a provider group. Those partners can also submit a final application in May, Neptune says. The successful candidates will be announced at a June 26 ceremony at Blueprint.

The partner hospitals already recruited for the Pilot program are very interested in health IT products that can help them coordinate the care of patients as they move from one health care setting to another, such as the transition from an inpatient surgical unit to a recovery center, Neptune says. Under federal health care reforms and other initiatives, payers such as Medicare are basing reimbursement decisions on the health outcomes of treatment. Hospitals can be penalized if a patient is readmitted within a short time after surgery, for example.

The Pilot grant recipients will work together for three to six months, and will then have the chance to present their accomplishments on the main stage at Health 2.0’s annual conference in Santa Clara, CA, which starts on Sept. 29, 2013. That could give the companies a showcase before a crowd of potential investors, Neptune says.

“We believe that a lot of the stuff we’re doing will draw attention from VC’s,” Neptune says.

Companies based in New York City will be strongly preferred in the Pilot grant selection, because one of the main purposes of the program is to encourage firms to form in the city or to start a major branch there, bringing jobs and other economic benefits to New York, say officials from the New York City Economic Development Corporation.

But companies outside New York’s five boroughs could still apply, Neptune says. They had to state that they plan to move to the city or create a significant presence there in the event that they win one of the grants, he says.

Health 2.0 is also co-managing another of the economic development agency’s programs to jump-start the city’s healthcare business community. The Innovate Health Tech NYC program will award a total of $50,000 to three companies developing software and/or hardware to solve urgent healthcare problems. The application deadline is May 2.

Neptune estimates that there are at least several hundred health tech companies in New York, with more forming constantly. New York City’s economic stimulus programs are driving the growth, in addition to incubators such as Blueprint, Startup Health, and the New York eHealth Collaborative (NYeC), he says. The city is a rich environment for entrepreneurs because of its dense community of hospitals, medical schools, and other health care provider institutions, Neptune says. Although the Bay area and Boston are traditionally seen as health tech hubs, New York is gaining on them, he says.

“We have a tremendous infrastructure that we’re just beginning to tap for healthcare innovation,” Neptune says. “New York could soon be number one.”

Bernadette Tansey is a freelance journalist based in Berkeley, CA. Follow @tanseyverse

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