Why & How Calian Leveraged L-SPARK to Build a Digital Health Ecosystem
In September 2021, Sacha Gera stepped into the role of President, IT and Cyber Solutions (ITCS) for Calian Group, a provider of diverse solutions for government, the private sector and defense customers across North America and globally. Already a trusted provider of healthcare services and solutions, Calian was on a new growth trajectory.
Earlier in 2021, Calian ITCS had acquired Dapasoft Inc., a provider of systems integration and cybersecurity solutions, including solutions supporting digital healthcare delivery. Dapasoft’s Corolar integration engine (now Calian Corolar platform) and Virtual Care solution were already deployed in many healthcare institutions across Canada, but with the pressures of the Covid pandemic continuing, customers were asking for enhanced features to help them manage immediate demand.
Calian saw this as an opportunity to engage the start-up community – not just to meet short term requirements, but to begin building an ecosystem around the Corolar platform that would provide access to an ever-increasing pool of applications for Calian customers and enable future innovation.
“Developing ecosystems around our platforms is a critical element to our strategy. Calian wins by enabling innovation and new use cases for our customers in an agile fashion, while start-ups get the opportunity to piggyback off of our existing base of larger institutions that trust us to deliver,” explained Sacha.
But identifying appropriate start-ups would take time and engaging with young companies is not something that a large corporation like Calian is naturally set up to do. Sacha reached out to L-SPARK, a Canadian SaaS Business Accelerator, for help.
L-SPARK had already developed and delivered successful corporate acceleration programs in partnership with BlackBerry, TELUS and others.
As a first objective, Calian sought solutions that could address its customers immediate enhancement requirements such as patient engagement and collaborative care. Calian also identified internal resources to guide and support selected start-ups with the platform integration. With these core objectives and scope clearly defined, L-SPARK was able to successfully pursue and roll-out the project, exceeding Calian’s expectations throughout.
Aptly named the “Calian L-SPARK MedTech Accelerator Program”, L-SPARK publicly announced a call for applications and 4 weeks later a pool of Canadian digital health start-ups was presented to Calian. With Calian’s input, ten of these companies were invited to participate in L-SPARK’s “bootcamp” to prepare their pitch to join the accelerator program a month later.
In the meantime, L-SPARK reached out to the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP) who agreed to provide financial support for the initiative. It takes a significant investment of resources for a start-up to engage with a corporate partner and conduct the R&D (and take the risk) necessary for an integrated solution, so this added support for the accelerator was key.
On pitch day, the Selection Committee, comprised mainly of Calian’s Senior Leadership Team, selected Lime Health, Virtual Hallway and Coalese Health, in addition to Alio Health Services, a Calian company, to join the MedTech Accelerator program.
|L-SPARK CORPORATE ACCELERATION MODEL
· Targeted recruitment of start-up companies
· Bootcamp with shortlisted companies
· Selection process based on company pitches and fit with Accelerator objectives
· Selected companies assigned an L-SPARK business mentor 1 day/week to support growth
· Weekly meetings with L-SPARK program team to address issues and facilitate collaboration
· Midpoint status presentations and identification of commercial opportunities
· Public Demo Day to showcase the new integrated solutions.
Once the Accelerator kicked-off, the pace was intense on all sides – from the first step of defining customer use cases and requirements, implementing the necessary technical integrations, to identifying business opportunities. Three months later, all three companies had a working proof of concept, and Calian had started to identify potential pilot customers.
At the same time, Calian and the four start-ups were starting to really collaborate and learn how to work together. It was new to everyone. A longer term working agreement was established that would ultimately define how Calian and the MedTech Accelerator group of start-ups could jointly pursue further commercial activities.
Leo Lax, L-SPARK’s Executive Managing Director, remarked on Calian’s strong engagement and commitment, “Launching the building of an ecosystem requires commitment to serve the customers, the partners and the internal objectives of the company. Calian has done all of that during the accelerator and built a strong foundation for future innovation.”
By May, a plan was already being developed for Lime’s patient communication solution to be piloted with a customer as an integration with the Calian Corolar platform. When the MedTech Accelerator program came to an end in June, just six months after its launch, agreements were signed with each of the participating companies and hence the start of the ecosystem emerged.
According to Sacha, “The accelerator helped Calian enable new digital transformation use cases that will help improve the healthcare experience for patients across Canada. We are looking forward to new pilot projects and inevitably monetizing these use cases, such that this is a win for the ecosystem, Calian, and our customers.”