Navigating different markets with different healthcare systems can be challenging. Duncan Cunninghame, Vice President of Business Development at The Insides Company, is helping to chart the course in the complex European market and is driven by an entrepreneurial mindset to deliver health impact at scale.
The Insides Company is an innovative medical technology company founded in Aotearoa, New Zealand, aiming to revolutionise the treatment of patients living with intestinal failure. It has been actively growing its worldwide distribution networks so that as many patients as possible across the globe can access their life-changing medical devices. Its’ expansion has been supported by nearly $10 million in capital raised and industry confidence. Their novel chyme reinfusion therapy (CRT) device is only the third medical device in the world to be covered under France’s ‘prise en charge transitoire’ (PECT) reimbursement, a national system for the early coverage of innovative medical technologies.
Health conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, colorectal cancer, Crohn’s disease and intestinal fistulas are a cause of suffering for people throughout the world, and traditional treatment methods often result in lengthy and costly hospital stays. The benefits of the Insides Company’s revolutionary chyme reinfusion therapy devices include faster patient recovery, improved treatment outcomes and subsequently quality of life. Such life-altering impacts are what drew Duncan Cunninghame to his role and career in the medical technology field.
Duncan has always had a passion for science and majored in human physiology while studying for his Bachelor of Science. He then went on to major in Biomedical/Medical Engineering at Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland. While studying, Duncan was introduced to many different technology companies, but it was a Fisher and Paykel Healthcare presentation that opened his eyes to the MedTech industry. “It has this high potential for creativity and overcoming complex challenges while making a meaningful impact on people’s lives.”
During his time at university, Duncan also participated in programmes delivered by the Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) programme, winning awards in the Velocity challenges in both 2015 and 2016. While Duncan had a strong scientific and engineering background, he credits his experiential learning at CIE for growing his confidence in his entrepreneurial capabilities. “The Velocity programme gave me my first exposure to building out a business case, performing a market analysis, considering different routes to market, and even pitching ideas – all of these have helped facilitate my transition from science/engineering into commercialisation, where I am now.”
Now Duncan is responsible for business development for The Insides Company across the European market. Duncan explains that Europe is uniquely complex due to the diversity of not just healthcare systems but also culture. “Each country has its own individual cultural nuances, business practices, and, notably, languages.” According to Duncan, it comes down to forming strong relationships. “Navigating the MedTech sector across Europe requires a good understanding of the local markets, and to succeed, you need strong relationships with key local partners.”
Staying focused is another piece of advice Duncan has for those commercialisation technology. Innovative thinkers, such as founders of MedTech companies, may naturally want to explore different and new applications for their technology, but when expanding into new markets, Duncan urges companies to remain focused. “It can be tempting to lose focus by developing new applications or be drawn into lots of different markets.” However, Duncan advises that in the early stages, especially when resources are limited, companies are more likely to achieve success through a focused strategy. “Stay focused and make a success of some key areas and then you can use this success as a blueprint and start to efficiently accelerate your global reach.”
The Insides Company was one of the first New Zealand companies to be named in the ‘Sir Paul Callaghan 100 Report’, which aims to recognise world-leading New Zealand companies making a difference. So far, 16 companies have made the list, but in the late Sir Paul Callaghan’s mind, New Zealand needs 100. He famously said, “One hundred inspired New Zealand entrepreneurs can turn this country around. That is the challenge for us all.” When contemplating what can be done to reach this number, Duncan believes it fundamentally comes down to investment, particularly from local investors. “Continuing to grow access to onshore capital will be essential for helping these companies and also helping keep them local rather than moving headquarters overseas.”
Duncan encourages scientists, students and researchers to look out for inefficiencies and unmet needs in the healthcare system and leverage university resources and networks to develop and test solutions. As a passionate advocate of medical technology’s impact on people’s lives, Duncan firmly believes “Entrepreneurship has the potential to be a powerful enabler for health impact at scale.”