€5m allocated to Health Innovation Hub Ireland to foster links between Irish health service and vital new technologies
A pioneering partnership between private sector companies and the health service to develop groundbreaking Irish healthcare products and research and use them to benefit of Irish patients has been set up by the Government.
Minister for Health Leo Varadkar and Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton have announced €5 million in funding over five years for the Health Innovation Hub. The Hub has already shown its value and fostered a number of innovative healthcare products and services since it was set up on a pilot basis in 2012 based in University College Cork.
The Health Innovation Hub will be a win-win for businesses, the health service, and for job-creation:
- Innovative Irish healthcare companies will for the first time be able to easily access the health service to test their products and services, increasing the chances of developing commercial ideas and creating jobs;
- The health service will have easy access to innovative companies who can provide solutions to the problems that it faces, making it cheaper and easier to deliver better health-care to more patients.
The initiative has massive potential for Ireland’s burgeoning healthtech sector, and for improving healthcare services and outcomes for patients. It has already supported 23 projects involving 27 companies including:
- an online tool for GPs to monitor the physical activity of patients via a smartphone or wearable devices;
- scheduling services to improve patient flow;
- infection control and hygiene management systems.
And it has helped Irish-based companies to sell their technology abroad:
- Abtran, who were testing an electronic GP referral system were able to use the knowledge gained to tender for a similar service in a UK Trust;
- Radisens, who were validating point of care testing equipment, have now closed a contract with a Tier‐1 strategic customer for Troponin development. Radisens secured a significant ESA contract valued at €1m to develop an innovative blood testing device for use by astronauts on board the International Space Station and on various human spaceflight missions;
- Lincor Solutions tested bedside units to provide entertainment, education and access to clinical data. Access to clinical data provides the clinical team with more information at patient bedside and can improve patient satisfaction.
Speaking at the announcement, Minister Varadkar said: “Often when we talk about health, the discussion only focuses on the cost to the Exchequer. If you look at things in the round, health actually makes an enormous contribution to the economy. More than 100,000 people are employed in the public health sector and as many again with private healthcare providers, insurers, pharmaceutical companies, medical devices, and in research and development. The life sciences sector accounts for a lot of our export revenue and is a major source of inward investment. The Health Innovation Hub is an opportunity to build on this by creating linkages between the health service and industry to develop new products and services that we can use to improve our own health service at home and sell as products and services abroad. It’s also a good example of joined-up Government as it involves two Government Departments, two Government agencies and the universities.”
Minister Bruton said: “The Health Innovation Hub was identified as a Disruptive Reform in the APJ and I am delighted that we have now progressed to establishing the Hub at the national level. We have combined exports from our lifesciences and ICT sectors of over €140 billion annually and the strengths of our enterprise base can be leveraged to deliver much needed innovation into our health system and at the same time sustain and create more jobs in these sectors. The commitment by Government to a facility such as the Health Innovation Hub also sends out a very strong message to international companies considering investing in Ireland that we are committed to developing even stronger links between the health and enterprise sectors and the high level R&D driving each sector. As part of our long term plan this will help turn good ideas into good jobs and ultimately make a major contribution in a drive towards full employment. ”
The Health Innovation Hub had been funded as a pilot project and following evaluation of the pilot Government decided to scale the project up to the national level with direct financial support being provided by Enterprise Ireland and in-kind support being provided by the Health Service Executive including dedicated staff. Following a competitive process a consortium led by University College Cork, with partners including Cork Institute of Technology, Trinity College Dublin and the National University of Ireland Galway, was appointed to host Health Innovation Hub Ireland.
A new Hub Director will now be appointed, who will guide the Hub through the next five years. The first call for proposals will be made later this year. A Stakeholder Advisory Group will also be set up to act as a forum between suppliers and users.
Julie Sinnamon, CEO, Enterprise Ireland commented: “Ireland’s strengths in ICT combine well with expertise in traditional healthcare and medical technology and many of our indigenous medtech businesses are leading international players in their areas of specialist expertise. Enterprise Ireland is committed to supporting collaboration opportunities between the health system and enterprise sector in order to innovate and internationalise healthcare technologies. The Health Innovation Hub will improve the efficiency of the commercialisation process of new technologies, products and services, benefitting the health sector and society as a whole”.
Notes for the Editor
The aim of HIHI is to drive collaboration between the health system and commercial enterprises leading to the development and commercialisation of new healthcare technologies, products, and services, emerging from within the health system and/or enterprise. It will establish Ireland as a leading location for start-ups and expanding medtech/healthcare companies to interface easily with hospitals and primary care centres.
HIHI will enable healthcare companies to more quickly and more successfully deliver commercial products and services which can create jobs, by providing facilitated access to the health service to validate their products/services in a real life clinical environment.
Based on clinical feedback, they can refine and optimise their products/services to ensure they can ultimately offer the solutions which the healthcare system needs, and secondly, to allow the health service to find efficiencies and improvements by facilitating the Health Services Executive and the wider health care system to engage and participate with innovative companies in creating solutions to everyday challenges.
Health Innovation Hub – a Disruptive Reform in APJ and a pilot to test the concept.
The Health Innovation Hub was included as a Disruptive Reform in APJ 2013 and 2014 as a joint initiative of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and the Department of Health. A demonstrator or pilot Health Innovation Hub was established in Cork in 2012 and have supported some 20 projects including innovations such as an online tool for GPs to monitor the physical activity of patients via a smartphone or wearable devices, remote patient monitoring and scheduling services to improve patient flow.
An independent evaluation of the pilot was carried out in Q2 2014 and concluded that the Health Innovation Hub has the potential to be a vital component of national innovation infrastructure and its value has been recognised by the relevant stakeholders in the healthcare sector. On the basis of this positive evaluation Government agreed in July 2014 to establish the Hub at a national level with direct financial support from Enterprise Ireland and in-kind support from the HSE including seconded staff.
Lifesciences and ICT sectors in Ireland
Ireland has a unique opportunity to deliver a step change in innovation capacity and enhance operational excellence in healthcare given the strengths of our enterprise base in lifesciences and ICT and the opportunities for convergence across these sectors. Enhanced collaboration between enterprise and the healthcare system can deliver economic growth, improve patient outcomes and lower healthcare service costs. Nine of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies in the world have a base in Ireland, as do eight of the top 10 medtech companies and eight of the top 10 software providers. There are 50,000 jobs in the lifesciences sector in Ireland alone and this sector accounts for half of Ireland’s merchandise exports, at over €56 billion per annum. Recent moves by world ICT providers, Google, Apple and Qualcomm into healthcare services point to the growing convergence opportunity around healthcare and health delivery and digital healthcare services are already a multi-billion dollar industry. Total ICT exports from Ireland reached €84.6 billion in 2013 – giving combined lifesciences and ICT exports of over €140 billion. HIHI will support creation and maintenance of jobs in these key sectors.