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Healthcare firms help European unicorns set record pace in 2021

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Healthcare technology investment soared 47% in 2020 to a new sector high of $51bn

Economic uncertainty in Europe has failed to stop record growth by unicorn companies in 2021, with healthcare businesses amongst the biggest winners.

This buoyant trend defies continental nervousness due to intermittent lockdowns, rising unemployment, unpredictable economic growth, COVID-19 variants, and a sluggish vaccination supply throughout 2020 and 2021.

Twenty-three European and Israeli unicorn companies – private firms valued at a billion or more have already completed deals this year, according to investment monitoring platform Pitchbook, closing in fast on 2020’s total of 38.

The approximate market value of unicorns in Europe also grew to €122.5 billion in Q1 2021, and Pitchbook now expects a new record for unicorn deals this year.

Healthcare technology investment soared 47% in 2020 to a new sector high of $51bn. Venture capital fundraising was also robust, with $17bn made available for healthcare investment, with deal sizes rising to record levels during 2021 so far.

This surge suggests a response to weaknesses exposed in healthcare systems across Europe last year. Healthcare technology specialists Vector Innovation Fund expects investors to focus further on healthcare in forthcoming years to guard against future global healthcare disasters and pandemic preparedness for infectious diseases.

World Nano Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation that supports commercialising nanoscale technology such as nanomedicines, and its co-founder Paul Sheedy welcomed the increased financial backing for healthcare innovation. He said, “COVID-19 pushed the over-centralised global healthcare systems to their limit in 2020, so it’s very promising to see investors supporting and driving the healthtech sector forward that supports early intervention and prevention delivered at the point of care, but this must continue, as the next decade will be pivotal in shaping the future of healthcare.”

Sheedy added, “We are on the cusp of some ground-breaking innovations. Healthtech companies are working towards improving treatment for cancer, Alzheimer’s and other degenerative diseases, enhancing pandemic protection through improved vaccine technology and testing, and providing digitisation that can enable us to create a more decentralised and sustainable global healthcare system. However, to see this future, we must maintain investment momentum.”

Paul Stannard, chairman and general partner at Vector Innovation Fund (VIF), which specialises in investment within healthcare technology and pandemic protection, supports this message, adding, “The pandemic has highlighted that early intervention is key to meeting the biggest health challenges and moving to a more decentralised model focussed upon sustainable health and improving life longevity. This is being achieved through new healthcare technologies, and this investment trend is set to continue because of the enormous upsides and impact it is delivering. It’s so positive to see record investment and deal sizes within healthcare and healthtech, showing that investment into this sector is more than just a positive impact investment, but an investment that appeals to the profit-driven investor too, offering sound investments and strong returns.”

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