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Meet 20 pioneers transforming the future of healthcare

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On 28 and 29 November 2018, the European Innovation Council (EIC) and Medtronic, a leader in the world of medical technology, gathered 20 companies to discuss the transformation of healthcare and promote business partnerships.

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have been playing an increasingly crucial role in the development of new products in the medical device industry. Quick adaptability, the capacity to identify market niches and intrinsic innovative potential, have turned these companies into relevant players in the healthcare industry worldwide.

However, at the stage when SMEs are growing, they need considerable financial resources to continue investments in product development and clinical trials, in order to bring their products to market faster. To tackle these challenges the EIC pilot and Medtronic promoted a matchmaking and business acceleration event in Tolochenaz, Switzerland, home of Medtronic’s EMEA headquarters.

20 companies backed by the EIC pilot took the stage and shared their innovative health care solutions for medical devices and therapies, mobile and remote health, patient engagement, diagnostics, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, data analytics and robotics.

At the event, we talked to Ger Hill, Senior Director Global Innovation at Medtronic, about Medtronic’s innovation strategy and learned that “For a company like Medtronic who has currently reached around 30B$ in revenue, maintaining revenue growth requires us to draw on innovation not only from our substantial organic internal innovation, but also from external partners. There are a lot of smart people who don’t work at Medtronic, and we want to collaborate with them to turn their ideas and concepts into products and solutions for patients and Medtronic.”

We also spoke with Charity Kufaas, Vice President, Business Development & Strategy EMEA at Medtronic, who shared her view on the quality of the companies attending: “The technologies of the companies I’ve seen today are truly innovative and address unmet needs. There were a number that we found really interesting and which I’m sure we’ll follow up after the event.”

Sourced from EASME.

Read the original article on the EASME website.

Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2019

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The 2019 Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) is THE place to be for innovators, entrepreneurs and trailblazers from across five innovation sectors. Taking place from June 4-5 in the Netherlands, the GES 2019 will be focusing on Agriculture, Connectivity, Energy, Health, or Water, and is looking for transformative technological solutions in each sector.

This will be the first time that the GES comes to the European Union, and will be co-hosted by both the governments of the Netherlands and the United States of America. This 9th edition of this globally known event aims to drive global innovation and celebrate the free-market economy that supports jobs, growth, and transformative solutions to global challenges. It will also serve to build on strong transatlantic relationships and common values, promote economic growth, fair trade, and encourage investment in entrepreneurial activity that creates prosperity and jobs.

The event provides the ultimate networking opportunity for scale ups, innovators, entrepreneurs and investors to meet, discuss and ultimately innovate together to improve innovation across the five sectors.

Applications close on 30 January 2019 so if you want to be considered for a place at GES 2019 don’t delay and apply today!

For more details look at the GES 2019 application page.

The future of physiotherapy – Virgílio Bento

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Today on Promoting Enterprise we meet entrepreneur Virgílio Bento. Virgílio is from Portugal and is the founder of  SWORD Health, a company working to change the future of physiotherapy. Today he shares with us a snapshot of his entrepreneurial story and his “secret of success”.

I became an entrepreneur in 2012 when I finished my PhD. It was clear to me that becoming an entrepreneur would be a more impactful use of my knowledge as opposed to staying in academia. It was then that I began my journey with SWORD Health. The company is building the future of physical therapy by combining AI with high-precision motion tracking sensors. This allows our patients to have access to high-quality physiotherapy without having to leave their homes.

The inspiration for the idea was personal and came from my family’s struggle to get high-quality physical therapy in a very difficult moment of our lives. Both my own personal experience as well as those of the SWORD Health patients and their families is what drives me to do better and achieve more. The company mission has remained the same from the beginning, to democratise the access to high quality physical therapy services with our digital therapists, regardless of the economic or social status of any patient.

Setting up my own business has taught me that talent, resilience and luck are key and you need all three to be successful. My overall ‘secret of success’ is to work smart and work hard, although I do not think it is a ‘secret recipe’; it is an attitude to life. Personally I don’t consider myself successful, and probably never will; there’s always a bigger mountain to climb. You also need to be prepared to make mistakes. I have not failed yet; but the time will come. Failure is not about when, but how one deals with it.

Being an entrepreneur is exciting and unpredictable, so if I could go back to the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey, I would tell myself to buckle up for one hell of a ride. I believe that the process of innovation is like going into a dark forest and coming out alive on the other side. Despite the inevitable difficulties and challenges of being an entrepreneur, I would advise all potential entrepreneurs to simply persist. It is not going to be easy, but it is well worth it.

Want to learn more about Virgílio’s work? Have a look at the SWORD Health website.

Do you want to be featured on the Promoting Enterprise News Portal? Want to share your entrepreneurial story? Get in touch with us at: promotingenterprise@gopacom.eu 

Starting your own business is an amazing journey – Haris Ioannou

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Haris is a 21 year old student in the third year of an Electrical and Software Engineering course at the National Technical University of Athens in Greece. Aged only 17, he won a prize for the best engineering project in the European Union Competition for Young Scientists (EUCYS) and was also one of the five global finalists in his age category in the Google Science Fair 2013. Since starting college he has developed software for Bioassist, a company focusing on applications that help the elderly with health-related issues. In this blog entry, Haris tells us about his work and his plans for the future.

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What are you working on at the moment? How does this fit in with your wider business development plans?

My passion is inventing and combining technologies and approaches in order to solve problems of everyday life. If I see an exciting opportunity to challenge my knowledge, skills and learn something new, the challenge is accepted.

For the past three years, I have participated in the initial stages of development of a research project aiming at assisting the independent living of elderly people. We have founded a company called Bioassist, and developed an application that remotely monitors the vital signs of older people, such as glucose and oxygen levels, blood pressure etc. in their home environment. It can also remind users to take their medication, keep a personalised health record and also lets users communicate with their relatives via video conferencing.

At the same time, over the past couple of months I have co-founded another project aiming at efficient and secure management of online passwords. Our main goal is to resolve this problem by eliminating people’s need to keep track of their passwords for websites. Our solution is a mobile application called Code Pi! We have built a new way for users to access their web accounts using their mobile device as an authentication element. Essentially you connect your phone and computer under the same Wi-Fi and when you try to log in to a website, it automatically fills in your account details for you. It is important to note that maximum security is ensured for all users by securely encrypting and storing all their credentials locally on their phones, and not on our servers.

haris_ioannou_photoHow do you manage to balance work and life? What is a typical day like for you?

My course is considered to be one of the most challenging in my university. My modules include programming languages, control systems, high-power electronics and robotics. When I want to relax I prefer working out, by running or going to the gym, rarely reading a book and occasionally going out with friends. All of these things help me to take a break from my everyday work.

Most days, after class, I have to attend meetings at Bioassist and Code Pi or at some of my other ventures. Combining studies and work is very fascinating, because you are given the chance to apply your theoretical knowledge in practice. For example, I might have learned an algorithm during my morning class and then I have to apply it into one of my projects. However, most times it happens that I have to use an algorithm that I don’t know yet and so I need to research it. Usually I will come across this algorithm 1-2 years later in one of my classes.

What are the pros and cons of running your own business? What challenges do you have to overcome on a day-to-day basis?

So far I am not fully responsible for the day-to-day operations in any of my ventures. However, I am responsible for the majority of the technical details for each of my projects, such as selecting the new technologies that we will be implemented in new features. I like to see each project not only from a technological viewpoint, but also from a business and a research perspective.

The interesting part is when you have to combine already existing approaches and technologies or even invent some new ones to come-up with the desired solution. If the solution satisfies the problem constrains then, most of the time my team and I publish a paper or launch the feature straight into our product. I think there is definitely a distinction between open time-frame research projects and scheduled product launches, but it does not have to be discrete and watertight.

I am trying to follow this workflow for two important reasons. Firstly, as a student, I have seen multiple projects being started and then abandoned after making only a couple of publications in scientific journals. Therefore I don’t want the projects to which I commit my time to end up like this. Secondly, solving a problem following the scientific method and documenting the result has a great value for the academic community and anyone else interested in the specific topic.

How are you preparing for the next stage of your business? What advice would you give to others thinking of starting their own businesses?

Currently being an undergraduate student, I consider myself very lucky to have people who trust me and really take my thoughts and ideas into consideration. Usually, as a student, you’re not involved in the decision making process of a company, due to lack of experience and technical knowledge, especially in the tech sector.

My goal through this project is to learn as much as I can in a small and very innovative corporate environment. Since my colleagues are both older and more experienced than me, I try to be influenced by them day by day. They have already been in my position and they have probably faced many of the problems that I am encountering. I don’t know where are we going to be in the next five years, I don’t even know where are we going to be in the next three, the market is so competitive and is not as straightforward as a business plan. I am very optimistic that we will have the same focus on our products and our customers and, if this turns out to be true, then we are definitely going to be successful.

Starting your own business is an amazing journey, on which you can learn and do important things. Whether this involves managing people in a team, or making a business plan or even deploying a new feature, these are skills that drastically change the way you think and work. You have to be open to listening to ideas from your team, but you should also carve out a specific plan and lead the team to deliver your product. Many examples show that the age at which you start a company is completely irrelevant to how successful it is going to be. Success it is directly related to how determined you and your team are in delivering the promise that you have made to your customers.

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WeFitter: Rewarding Users for Living Healthy

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WeFitter is a Spanish fitness and well-being platform that allows companies to encourage and reward active lifestyles. Individual users can also accumulate points for their activities and either exchange them for prizes or donate them to charitable causes. The team behind the application’s development wants to motivate end users to be more consistent with their physical activity and transform it into a lifelong habit. Carlos Rodes, a co-founder of WeFitter, claims that according to some studies, 96% of people would change their health behaviour if they were rewarded.

 

Encouraging a Healthy Lifestyle

The WeFitter mobile application has been built with this statistic in mind, and it aims to deliver the means by which people can acquire healthier habits while feeling good about it. WeFitter provides health and fitness data to companies who purchase the technology to build an engaged and active database and analyse users’ behaviour with regard to their active lifestyle.

Individual users can connect their favourite activity and sporting apps to WeFitter, which tracks the users’ effort and then exchanges it for points that can be redeemed for rewards in the form of gifts or discounts from partners. Another option is to exercise for the greater good and donate the acquired points to charity.

According to Carlos Rodes, WeFitter motivates employees to have an active and healthy lifestyle, which increases productivity and engagement. The application can be used in the following three main ways:

  • To help facilitate teambuilding through an exclusive rewards-based platform and challenges that companies can incorporate into their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) plans.
  • To create loyalty programs for fitness centres to increase member retention by recognising their commitment to stay active.
  • To encourage consumers’ physical health, thus improving brand perception and increasing purchase intent. Based on WeFitter research, rewards are 14 times more effective at increasing purchase intent than traditional online ads.

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Building the Company

The WeFitter team considers its participation in the Technogym wellness acceleration program very helpful. The accelerator environment facilitated faster project growth, especially through its mentoring programme and by creating opportunities for working with investors.

However, WeFitter finds serious shortcomings in the way Spain treats start-up enterprises. In the words of Carlos Rodes: “In Spain, I think the conditions are terrible since it is very clear that it is a country that pursues steady jobs. It took us almost 2 months to start a company due to the bureaucracy in Spain. I understand other countries in the EU are far ahead in terms of entrepreneurship, but that is not the case for Spain and Italy, where we are still struggling to find the right balance between jobs and entrepreneurs. Besides, the mentality is ‘conservative’, which makes us weak relative to the US market where they grow faster thanks to large investments. We always say: ‘If Facebook was Spanish, it would never have succeeded’.”

That said, WeFitter has been able, to a degree, to benefit from funding provided for the development of new businesses. In addition to the accelerator investment from Technogym, the company was also successful in raising an investment from the Spanish branch of the ENISA (European Union Agency for Network and Information Security).

This was one of the factors enabling WeFitter to collaborate not only with companies such as Sanitas (Bupa), PhoneHouse, Sanofi, or DuetSports but also with the Health Department of the Catalan government.

 

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