InnoHealth: Gateway to validate health innovations by user involvement in the Baltic Sea region
A gap exists between the needs of the health innovation users and the innovation processes in SMEs. That causes a too low market uptake of new products and services leading to a reduced success rate for start-ups and a health system lacking effectiveness. To overcome the gap education within entrepreneurship and easy access of developers to the health sector (i.e. hospitals, spas, etc.) are crucial for coupling the user’s needs and involvement better with the evaluation of product ideas and services within health care and prevention.
By (in alphabetical order) Sofia Brorsson (Dalarna University), Tomas Černevičius (KTU Regional Science Park), Peter Frank (ScanBalt), Paweł Gawroński (Regional Multidisciplinary Hospital in Kalisz), Minna Luhtanen ( South Ostrobothnia Health Technology Development Centre), Narits Natalia (Aalto University Foundation), Karolina Piwowarska (Upper Silesian Agency for Entrepreneurship and Development Ltd), Jesper Simonsen (North Denmark Region), Marzena Strok-Sadło (The Municipality of Lublin City), Külle Tärnov (Tallinn Tehnopol), Ilona Tuomine (University of Turku), Kalevi Virta (Oulu University of Applied Sciences)
In total 11 validation centres representing living labs within various health and wellness niches in the Baltic Sea region (BSR) have proposed a project „InnoHealth“ aiming to offer their testing opportunities to start-ups and SMEs from the entire BSR. Some examples are: smart wearables in Lithuania, sports in Sweden, robots for rehabilitation in Poland, emergency care in Finland, and pain stimulation, measuring and treatment in Denmark. The project has two main activity lines:
(1) Demand based innovation processes (products, business models) preparing development workshops in health with participation of students, developers and SMEs;
(2) Validation processes for start-ups in the validation centres coupling business ideas with the potential users.
InnoHealth is both tackling societal challenges of the BSR and promoting growth of SMEs.
Threats and opportunities
Health economy is one of the top smart specialisation sectors in all BSR countries for good reasons: it is a rapidly growing economic sector (meaning over average), the BSR has a high level scientific capacity in health and finally BSR has some success in commercialisation within certain domains of health economy though still lacking to exploit the potential to its full extent.
Both a threat and an opportunity for BSR health economy is the combination of ageing populations, lack of doctors and nurses and a high hospital bed density vs reduction of state care budgets. This leads to gaps but also create a demand for more private sector involvement and a rapid growth of healthy lifestyle market products.
In general the BSR is still not competitive in commercialisation of knowledge stemming from top level health science. The Nordic countries are for example successful in patent application but still far behind US and other successful regions in commercialisation.
Individual regions too small to develop top class living labs
There are well developed living labs, validation centres in the BSR within several niches but they mostly work with a regional or national orientation. The best examples are currently to be found in the Nordic countries, especially Finland.
However a barrier for the living labs is that they often – like in Finland – do not have enough clients in their region per niche and therefore the incubators, accelerators and science parks lack capacity to develop into top level living labs and validation centres in the niches where their clients operate.
Strategy behind the actions
Since 2001 ScanBalt BioRegion has worked to promote the BSR as a leading and competitive health and bio economy. The efforts were facilitated by the establishment in 2009 of the EU strategy for the BSR and ScanBalt BioRegion became denominated a flagship within the strategy having focus on innovation in health and health care systems.
The collaboration in ScanBalt BioRegion has been hugely successful in mobilizing regional and national resources for Baltic Sea collaboration and coupling them with EU investments in a coordinated and synergistic manner. Since 2004 strategies developed by the non-profit association ScanBalt® fmba and its many members have been setting the frame for the work.
A new strategy is being developed in 2015 for the years to come. Focus will be on making it easier for businesses to explore the Baltic Sea region as a market and development site, assist regions to gain economic development from BSR collaboration and promote shared use of knowledge and innovation systems and organizations.
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