Merck accelerator receiving record number of applications

The German pharmaceuticals giant Merck says its accelerator programs in Darmstadt and Nairobi are receiving record-breaking numbers of applications from 72 countries around the globe. The company reports that since the last round, applications to take part in the program have increased by 82 percent. The Merck Accelerator promotes the development of young firms with innovative ideas.

Start up teams in both Germany and Kenya are working on innovations in medicine and healthcare. In Darmstadt, the focus is healthcare, life sciences and performance material, while Nairobi's program is dedicated exclusively to digital health. Applicants selected to take part in Darmstadt receive office space at the Merck Innovation Center in the German city, while in Nairobi, they are based at Nairobi Metta. Teams in both locations also receive grants of up to EUR 50,000 and regular mentoring and coaching from an international pool of 50,000 experts from 66 countries.

Merck reports that teams in Darmstadt are working on projects ranging from highly sensitive laboratory sample carriers to hydrogels for preclinical drugs discovery to an interactive game for children having cancer. Teams in Nairobi, meanwhile, are addressing topics such as data management for global health supply chains and counterfeit drugs.

The applications flooding into the accelerator reflect an economic trend. In a report about venture capital in Germany, the consulting firm Ernst & Young (EY) reported that "digital healthcare is becoming big, and it can be expected that this segment is going to continue to see activity in 2017." Another EY study found Germany to be a top investment location in Europe, while several other reports noted the growing importance of startups and Ehealth in the industry in general.