Digital transformation has long been on the lips of many a leading business woman or man.
And recent global events have only served to accelerate the move towards a digital-first world.
Even sectors previously not associated with cutting-edge tech solutions are now being forced to re-evaluate. Not just to enable their employees to ‘work from home’, but also to ensure their businesses remain feasible as consumers start to rethink their daily lives and routines.
Nowhere has this been more apparent than in the areas of Education and Healthcare.
2020 will no doubt be the year that students and teachers alike became much more accustomed to online learning.
That’s not to say that online education wasn’t available before 2020. But it was never at the core of how schools and universities delivered their curriculums. And it was often only offered for postgraduate or professional qualifications; very rarely for full-time core education traditionally kept to the ‘bricks and mortar’ route.
And whilst schools are quickly scrambling to get back into classrooms, cramming in as much teaching as they can before the summer break, universities and colleges are taking a different stance altogether.
In May of this year, Cambridge University announced that all lectures until the summer of 2021 would be online-only.
Slightly less radical but a huge shift all the same was Oxford University’s announcement to interview all prospective candidates online.
And these from two of the most traditional and some might say ‘old-fashioned’ institutions in the UK.
Beyond the more mainstream educational routes, tech-based learning apps have actually been around for quite a few years now. And although focused on specific areas of education, they open up learning paths that we could start to see introduced in schools and universities.
Language learning is probably the most obvious here, with tech-led companies such as Busuu and Memrise leading the way.
Specific applications are also an area of focus for tech startups and scaleups. Kano Computing is one such success story tackling computing and coding. RefMe is yet more specific, automating the cumbersome process of citations for thousands of students across the globe.
But perhaps where most interest lies is with learning for children.
EdTech companies such as Show My Homework, Night Zookeeper and MangaHigh.com are revolutionising the sector and are surely ones to watch when it comes to the old-fashioned view of the classroom.
Crossing the boundaries of the Educational and Healthcare sectors is a fascinating platform called Touch Surgery. An interactive surgical simulator for healthcare professionals, it guides users through every step of a surgical procedure, allowing them to quickly learn, test and rehearse for the real thing.
Closer to home in the UK, Pando Health was founded in 2016 by two UK-based doctors and is a messaging app that allows healthcare professionals to communicate securely.
Open Bionics is another HealthTech company doing amazing work by creating affordable robotic prosthetics, including customisable ones for children.
And an app that has even attracted UK government attention is that of Babylon Health, which allows patients to video call doctors on demand.
Indeed, these app-based, video appointment systems seem to be where the money is at the moment, with Push Doctor and VideoDoc offering similar solutions.
Investment in HealthTech companies, including in those with an even longer-term vision for transformation, is truly the talk of the moneyed circles.
Areas such as neurotech are attracting a lot of attention – with Neurovalens and BrainWaveBank being two such examples.
And the care home industry, one that is certain to remain in the spotlight after 2020, is another that is benefitting from millions in investment. Just take a look at Lifted and Elder.
But is it too much, too soon?
Are the foundations of the healthcare industry ready for such tech disruption? Not just from an emotional point of view, but also from the perspective of the data and systems underlying key operations.
Even the recent pandemic hasn’t transformed the healthcare industry as the tech startups would like.
Progress is still slow, physical doctors’ surgeries are still the first port of call, and even the bulk of COVID-19 tests are yet to really penetrate a more digital environment.
And let’s not even mention the UK government’s track-and-trace app…
If we needed reassurance that tech disruption is an inevitability for the health care sector, then we need look no further than the newly created industries of FinTech and LegalTech.
In FinTech, challenger banks are now aplenty – it’s common currency (forgive the pun!) to discuss the relative pros and cons of Monzo, Revolut and Starling.
And although it hasn’t quite had the impact initially predicted, blockchain still looks set to revolutionise the financial services sector in ways we probably can’t even yet conceive of.
Indeed, the ‘digital-first’ approach to banking is truly gathering pace – use of cash is declining year-on-year, you no longer need to ‘visit a branch’ to set up a bank account securely and safely, and global transfers can now be done in seconds thanks to the likes of WorldRemit and TransferWise.
And who would have thought that even the Legal sector was ripe for disruption? Specifically, when it comes to pairing individuals with lawyers through tech marketplaces.
Lexoo and Justlegal are perfect examples of this.
Whilst the startup funding company SeedLegals is a model that’s bound to be adopted very soon across the Enterprise market.
In fact, if the startup ecosystem for LegalTech is something that floats your boat, be sure to check out this interactive map from Legal Geek, neatly set out in the form of a tube map!
The recent launch of TechNation’s LawtechUK vision sets out to accelerate the digital transformation of the UK’s legal sector, taking advantage of £2 million in government funding from the Ministry of Justice.
Speaking of funding, the Legaltech Startup Report published in 2019 showed that investment into UK lawtech startups jumped from £2.5M in 2016 to £62M in the first three quarters of 2019.
Even more established law firms such as Clifford Chance and Linklaters are launching their own in-house innovation hubs.
Have FinTech and LegalTech already peaked?
Some argue that the FinTech press coverage to date has largely been consumer focused, with an emphasis on challenger banks.
However, there are untapped opportunities within the institutional banking sector as well as more traditional industries like wealth and asset management.
As for LegalTech, well it’s just getting started! If you’ve used a lawyer recently you’ll know that the bulk of their work is still done through Microsoft Word!
And what about HealthTech… is disruption there just getting going too?
It certainly looks that way.
As an industry that has been ripe for disruption for some time now, there are still many opportunities to overhaul outdated R&D processes and provide high-quality healthcare to a broader audience.
As the world moves into a post-pandemic, post-lockdown era, it’s fair to say that ‘digital transformation’ will no longer be a ‘nice-to-have’.
Tech will be at the heart of everything we do and it will continue to create both efficiencies and disruption to blaze a new trail for the future to come.
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