Merck – Make-IT Africa Startup Program

Get your startup to the next level


Are you a start-up working towards the SDG’s and are based in Africa? Are you working at the cutting edge of innovation to solve real-life problems? Is your start-up innovation related to Healthcare, Life Sciences, Performance Materials, and Merck’s innovation focus areas?

If you have answered yes to any of the questions above. Then we are looking for you! The Joint Start-up Programme, a collaboration between Merck Accelerator with Tech Entrepreneurship Initiative “Make-IT in Africa” is your gateway to quickly explore and validate the potential for co-creating and working in in the health sector especially in partnership with Merck.

Apply to get a chance to work on a collaboration project with existing Merck’s innovation projects.


  • Digital Solutions in the Healthcare Sector
  • Bio-Sensing and Interfaces
  • Liquid Biopsy Technologies

Digital Solutions in the Healthcare Sector

Primary access to healthcare and healthcare services are key to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages. The application of technological solutions can contribute to increasing the efficiency of healthcare through enhanced access, improved affordability but also innovative diagnostic services and administration processes.

To augment the digital access solution services, we are looking for innovative and ambitious start-ups with a sustainable business model in different areas e.g.:

  • Digital patient management solutions
  • Savings group i.e. fintech solutions/ healthcare financing and insurance
  • Rapid diagnostic tests and e-health solutions
  • Digital health education solutions for patients
  • Patient support programs
  • Community self-service enablement solutions

Example opportunity:

Healthcare Access Solutions
CURAFA™ Points of Care, born out of the Merck innovation spirit is a pilot initiative currently consisting of 5 Primary Healthcare facilities operating at high-quality standards running in Kenya. The platform concept will provide a pharmacy with prescription and OTC medication, insurance/patient financing schemes, patient health education and clinical services enhanced through mobile and digital health solutions.
Can your solution benefit from and enhance our CURAFA points of care platform?

Bio-sensing and Interfaces
Merck’s Innovation Field “Bio-sensing and Interfaces” focuses on the interface between the biological and digital world. Around the world, healthcare costs have reached all-time highs, the pharmaceutical industry productivity
is decreasing, and drugs are becoming more expensive. This situation is unsustainable in the long run. Digital technologies have enormous potential in delivering the needed change: We aim to decentralize and democratize the healthcare model and empower patients to better manage their health and we are looking for Startups that have innovative solutions covering: 

  • Medical sensors – wearables, patches, ingestibles, etc.
  • Novel digital biomarkers
  • Solutions that enable tailored medical treatment that is adaptive to patient condition.

Example opportunities:

  • Real-time remote monitoring enabling decentralized healthcare
  • Medical treatment tailored and adaptive to patient condition
  • Measurement of and response to external stimuli and metabolic reactions
  • Decrease of side effects
  • Outcome- and value-based treatments, in which drugs are only reimbursed when the desired patient outcome is achieved

Liquid Biopsy Technologies
Today, the diagnoses of various diseases require invasive tissue biopsies, which not only affect patient experience and clinical utility but also disable new applications such as early detection and monitoring. With the recent advent of liquid biopsy as a new sampling and testing method, non-invasive alternatives to traditional tissue-based diagnostics are beginning to be applied more and more in clinical contexts, thereby reshaping the way of detecting and managing various diseases. Merck’s Innovation Field “Liquid Biopsy Technologies” focuses on technological solutions to overcome unresolved challenges in the liquid biopsy workflow as well as on applications beyond cancer and we are looking for you if you’re working on:

  • Simpler non-invasive diagnostic tools
  • New clinical sample collection, storage and processing tools
  • Isolation of specific body fluid components or biomarkers.

Example opportunities:

  • Non-invasive diagnosis and patient monitoring leading to early diagnosis and personalized treatments
  • Individualized treatment selection in cancer and beyond


We are looking for start-ups that fulfil the following criteria:

  • Registered in an African country and operative for at least a year
  • A business model with a focus on the SDG’s and a solution in the fields of Healthcare, Life Sciences, Performance Materials and other search fields such as Biosensing and Interfaces, and Liquid Biopsy
  • Start-ups with at least 2 cofounders
  • The team supports gender equality and diversity
  • Applicants must be fluent in English


Our program will be targeting start-ups across Africa. We will have one application platform where participants will be required to specify which region they are applying from and where their business is registered: North Africa, Eastern Africa, West Africa, and Southern Africa.


Application PhaseJune 21 – July 17 2019
Selection interviewsJuly 11 – July 18 2019
Nairobi: BootcampAugust 5 – August 10 2019
South Africa: Innovation SummitSeptember 09 – September 13 2019
Germany: Medica and Selection DaysNovember 18 – November 27 2019


This is your gateway to quickly explore and validate the potential for co-creating and working in partnership with Merck and profit from the broad network of Make-IT in Africa. In addition, we have a few perks for the best start-ups:

  • Business Case Development:
    • Fully paid bootcamp in Nairobi for top 20 start-ups (5 per each region) to ideate and develop business cases for collaboration with Merck
    • Continuous business support, technical support and online mentoring and coaching
    • Scale-Up Diagnostics and Design for Scale Training
  • Ecosystem Learning Journey:
    • Spotlight and exhibition at the South Africa Innovation Summit in Cape Town for 4 finalists
    • Spotlight and Demo Day at Merck in South Africa for 4 finalists
    • Spotlight and exhibition at MEDICA conference in Dusseldorf for 4 finalists
  • Corporate Collaboration: A fully paid trip to Merck Innovation Center at the HQs to pitch for a collaboration project with Merck for 4 finalists
  • Connect and Community: Three meetups in each focus region will be conducted to connect with a rich community of founders and innovators in your region going through the same challenges, as you exchange ideas and build lifetime connections.
  • Access to Make-IT Fellowship:
    • Investor meetups
    • Business opportunities
    • Potential exposure measures

About Merck

Merck, a leading science and technology company, operates across healthcare, life science and performance materials. Around 52,000 employees work to make a positive difference to millions of people’s lives every day by creating more joyful and sustainable ways to live. From advancing gene editing technologies and discovering unique ways to treat the most challenging diseases to enabling the intelligence of devices – the company is everywhere. Scientific exploration and responsible entrepreneurship have been key to Merck’s technological and scientific advances. This is how Merck has thrived since its founding in 1668. The founding family remains the majority owner of the publicly listed company. Merck holds the global rights to the Merck name and brand. The only exceptions are the United States and Canada, where the business sectors of Merck operate as EMD Serono in healthcare, MilliporeSigma in life science, and EMD Performance Materials.

About Tech Entrepreneurship Initiative “Make-IT Africa”

Make-IT in Africa promotes digital innovation in Africa for sustainable and inclusive development. Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH implements this project on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) as part of BMZ’s Digital Africa Initiative. In close collaboration with more than 30 corporate and financing partners, social enterprises, hubs and networks, ‘Make-IT in Africa’ supports an enabling environment for young entrepreneurs – to enable better access to finance, markets and skills.

About HYBR

HYBR is a Pan-African Innovation Advisory firm and growth platform for impact scale-ups. We work with entrepreneurs, multinational corporations, governments, non-profits, academia and investors to scale social impact solutions in Africa. Our venture support programs have enabled over 250 ventures across 10 countries in Africa since 2017. We work with partners to drive better access to food, education, healthcare, financial inclusion and energy to underserved populations in Africa.


July 18, 2019
Program dates Aug 5 - Nov 27, 2019
OrganizerMerck Accelerator
Website Visit website
Targets Africa
Biotechnology and medical research, Drugs and cosmetics, Healthcare, Healthcare providers and services, Hygiene, Medical equipment and supplies, Pharmaceuticals



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