Accelerating and Succeeding in the Health Market - Supporting SMEs and Start-ups

As if our health care systems are not already complex enough, how they are designed and deliver needs to adapt to the consequences of the aging populations, chronic diseases, and rising comorbidities. This means stakeholders having to balance between developing new, more flexible and integrated service networks, and carrying on with the traditional, acute hospital-centric model of care. What makes this harder is that health care providers work in a competitive environment due to financial constraints. So, what can help to renew our systems?

Health innovation is of key importance in reconfiguring health care, in which its actors can have a crucial role. As Health ClusterNet, one of our consortium partners says:

“In seeking to become modern, responsible and sustainable health care systems and health care providers should (i) be encouraged to become co-producers of health innovation through participation with industry and research facilities and (ii) be open to new and affordable innovation products. The issue here is not the cost of new innovation products and the changes to service provision they enable. It is if their adoption reduces the demand for and the costs of acute and long-term services especially.”

INNOLABS is focussing on smart health solutions that can contribute to cost-effective, needs-led, and sustainable care provision along the care continuum. The aim is to deliver new products and services for healthcare building upon the capacity from European SMEs belonging to the fields of ICT, Health, BIO and Medicine.

To inform our project and help understand how SMEs and start-ups can be supported to accelerate and succeed in the health care market, the consortium collected information about the opportunities and challenges that the health care systems face and the main issues that shape these. This work was informed by lessons from earlier projects and initiatives, interviews with 6 consortium cluster partners, and 24 SMEs and other third parties from these clusters.

This ‘Baseline’ Report shows that our health systems and regional innovation ecosystems tend to operate in a fragmented way and this is problematic for SMEs and for healthcare providers. Fundamentally, there is a need for a change of attitude as a majority of hospitals and healthcare centers do not seem very disposed to innovation. A second aspect is the difficulty in testing, verifying, performing trials and deploying tech solutions in a sector with not so flexible legacy systems (especially in the EU13).

To resolve such disconnections, stakeholders have emphasised the importance of clinic-industry-science-investor/funder collaborations, to test and validate new solutions. This might be enabled by the co-creation of business models (between hospitals and SMEs) as a means for enhancing innovation in the sector. Also, funding initiatives need to be revised to ensure transparency and include practical incentives for attracting SME participation and improving the innovation capacity of health care providers. And finally, utilizing the above to drive wider adoption of pre-commercial public procurement practice by healthcare providers.

Reflecting on this situation, some INNOLABS cluster partners emphasized that they need good use cases to understand the existing situation, framework settings, legal and regulatory aspects, etc. to drive developments from needs/demands of end-users, and not try to fit technological solutions into existing settings.

That said, there was some optimism. When talking with SMEs and other third parties, several of them identified a number of "hot topic" opportunities for SMEs. But developing products in any of these areas have a number of commercialisation (e.g. MDR in 2.3, ISO 13485, Health Economics and Outcomes Research, CE Mark) and operating environment (e.g. risk averse health management, patient safety, technology and users not in synch, accessing patient data) hoops to get through.

Not all of the changes needed are about direct help to SMEs. Some of it is about indirect help. For example, looking at how to reconfigure health care providers and funders to have a hunger for innovation!

-INNOLABS Healthcare-Innovation

This article was written by Edit Sebestyen from Health ClusterNet.