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Q&A with Jen Estherby, Barclays Eagle Labs HealthTech Lead


Jen Estherby, Barclays Eagle Labs HealthTech Lead

Supporting the transformation of the healthcare industry through collaboration and innovation

Jen has worked for Barclays in various roles over the last 13 years and more recently has  been responsible for building the HealthTech Industry vertical within Barclays Eagle Labs. Over the last 3 years, Jen has built a national ecosystem of HealthTech businesses to highlight and showcase new and emerging technologies in healthcare by bringing together industry experts, innovators, academics and health and social care providers to support the transformation of the healthcare industry through collaboration, innovation and technology.

eagle labs space

Q: Can you give us a brief overview of Barclays Eagle Labs?

A: Eagle Labs is a UK-wide network of business incubators with dedicated growth programmes and mentoring and coaching in place to help early-stage businesses to grow and scale. We have 24 physical spaces across the country, however most of our programmes and events are run virtually.

Members can access our full range of benefits including one-to-one business mentoring, learning content and workshops, events, access to funding opportunities and a large community of founders and businesses to help you grow your network.

Q: Your role at Eagle Labs focuses on HealthTech. Tell us more about all the different applications within this overarching sector and the types of organisations you work with.

A: Since we launched our HealthTech Industry vertical, we have connected with over 400 businesses who work across a range of specialist areas in the healthcare sector. Some of the key themes we’ve seen focus on remote patient monitoring and diagnostic tools, mental health and wellbeing solutions, connected devices and sensors for around the home, artificial intelligence in early detection, FemTech and of course wearable technology. The members page on our website details some of the innovative companies we have supported so far. 

Q: What are the biggest innovations you have seen so far in HealthTech?

A: I think the use of Artificial Intelligence to get a more precise and efficient diagnosis has had a huge impact in MedTech and advancements in remote monitoring tools are demonstrating ways that can help people to live more independently and remain in their homes for longer. There is also a growing trend of people taking accountability for monitoring their own health, which tech solutions have made possible. Whether that be apps which track activity, smart watches for health and fitness statistics, or people seeking alternative treatments via private subscription services (for example to manage their mental health and wellbeing). This has given people more choice outside the traditional GP prescription remits previously.

barkleys lab space

Q: Where do you see HealthTech heading in the future? What are the unexplored areas that you think show the most potential?

A: The pandemic has shone a spotlight on some areas within the health and social care sectors that need attention where the adoption of technology has become ever more important. For example, the care home industry was, in essence, shut off from the world during the pandemic, thus making it difficult to stay connected to healthcare professionals and loved ones because of the lack of even basic tech solutions, like suitable Wi-Fi in place. Care home residents of the future will be more digitally evolved and therefore care homes should focus on implementing new technology to support the needs of their future residents.

Q: What are some of the most common challenges faced by the start-ups you work with?

A: For start-ups from any industry it is always a challenge to navigate the funding landscape. If we look more specifically at HealthTech businesses, it is also difficult to get a route to market in the public sector. There are many challenges in demonstrating the commerciality of the innovation and then understanding all of the activities involved in the procurement process.

We have hosted a number of events, which offer some guidance to help in these areas that you can watch on our YouTube Channel:

Understanding HealthTech commercialisation and scaling a successful business

HealthTech Procurement 101

Q: In your view, how can an organisation like Thrive Wearables support start-ups in the HealthTech space?

A: Sharing your knowledge and supporting other founders, where relevant, is always appreciated. One of the key things our founders tell us they need help with is route to market and how to make connections with the right people, which in healthcare can be complex, as you need to engage the purchasers as well as the users of your technology. I think it is also important to help founders understand customer needs and test whether they have designed their product with the end user in mind, especially when it comes to looking at wearable technology. 

Q: What is the impact Eagle Labs has had so far? Where do you feel you have added the most value?

A: Since launching Eagle Labs in 2015, we have grown our footprint to 24 incubator spaces across the UK that are home to some of the most exciting home-grown start-ups. 

Our dedicated growth education programmes include funding readiness, global trade missions to the US, the Netherlands and Singapore, we’ve run a number of accelerator programmes, including a Black Founder Accelerator, as well as dedicated industry verticals to help transform the legal, agriculture, energy and health industries.  

Q: What is an achievement you personally feel proudest of? 

A: I am very proud to be one of the ten founding members of Eagle Labs and it has been amazing to see the programme scale since its launch in 2015, growing the team to more than 100 colleagues helping UK businesses to connect, innovate and grow. It also really excites me to see businesses thriving and overcoming adversity, which there has certainly been more of these past 18 months or so with the pandemic.  

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