State your case: 7 questions every innovator needs to ask themselves

Philip Shelton, Principal Advisor – Commercial Lead at Eastern AHSN, explains the essential questions innovators need to answer to develop a winning business case

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Published: 14th October 2021

What makes a good business case?

Innovators are encouraged to construct a clear business case to aid success in a competitive and often complex NHS marketplace. A business case helps to identify an unmet need, defines strategic options to address this gap and proposes a solution backed by a benefit, cost and risk analysis.

A business case provides a one- to three-year business focus set around concrete objectives and a plan how you will achieve them. It also allows you to prioritise what is the critical path to success. Once constructed, it will become the benchmark for the performance of your business, so it pays to invest a good amount of time in the process. If you engage your employees and partners in the development of your business case, it will help you build a successful, committed team.

Your business case will further support your approach to potential buyers and collaborators. For NHS-focused innovations, you will need to evidence a clear benefit to stakeholders and evidence cost savings. Any commissioning manager you approach will require substantial real-world evidence to make a case for procurement.

At Eastern AHSN, we help innovators build their business case and gather supporting evidence to improve the probability of securing NHS investment. Working with partners at the Knowledge Transfer Network and Public Health England, we probe and test every business plan for weaknesses. The seven key questions every business plan should answer are:

1.What is driving the need, what solution are you proposing and why should you be the ones to do it?

Outline the nature of the problem and explain the impact your innovation will have to address it. Identify what will motivate the purchaser and users to adopt the innovation. Describe how your idea will benefit each in terms of efficacy, safety, patient benefit and cost savings.

Demonstrate awareness of the competition in your market space and how your solution compares. We often work with innovators to develop their problem statement and one key point is to identify why the problem hasn’t been addressed before.

2.What is the potential market size, what deliverables do you plan to sell and what income do you expect to achieve?

Now you have outlined the solution to the problem, you can propose the solution and its potential value. Ensure your figures are realistic and robustly evidenced. Investors and collaborators will want to thoroughly test them, so credible forecasting is important.

3.What high-level steps will you take and what metrics will you apply?

You should outline your roadmap and include key performance indicators, milestones and outcomes to demonstrate progress. Just as progress is never linear, your key metrics are not set in stone and should be regularly reviewed as your journey to market adoption develops.

4.What resources will you need to commit, and when?

This includes people, finance, systems and physical space. Everything should be costed into your budget and projections. Check that your resource commitments are realistic and achievable.

5.What clear, definable deliverables do you expect to see?

You should be clear about roles and responsibilities, what kind of dependencies are present and identify any other risks to success.

6.What other approaches have you considered?

This will include the do nothing scenario. What outcome do you foresee if the project doesn’t proceed? Why have other approaches been rejected? What are others doing in this space and what solutions are already out there?

7. What risks surround the proposal? What does failure look like?

Managing uncertainty is important. Threats from competitors or changes in the marketplace, including the political landscape could affect your go to market strategy. Try to be realistic in considering what is the minimum progress required and your mitigation plan if your business plan is not on-track.

What next?

We can help you answer these key questions to develop your business case and point you to resources including templates, business modelling tools and further support. To start with, take a look at our business case toolkit or you can get in touch with me at [email protected].

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Philip Shelton, Principal Advisor - Commercial Lead at Eastern AHSN
About the author

Phil completed his PhD at the University of Leicester and completed an MBA in 2012.  Phil has 12 years’ experience in the life sciences sector working in a highly data driven drug discovery environment at AstraZeneca. Following this, he worked for 5 years with the NIHR where he worked closely with senior stakeholders across East Midlands as part of the NIHR CLAHRC implementing evidence into practice to improve population health. Latterly, he has 5 years commercial experience in the health technology sector with Philips. Here he was investigating ways to commercialise population health and value-based care solutions and services for the NHS.

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A business case evaluates the benefit, cost and risk of strategic options and provides a rationale for the proposed solution. Find out how to build one in our toolkit…

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