Project summary

A challenge for us all

Innovation is a game-changer. And innovation in healthcare  is not only a life-saver, but it improves and enhances the quality of people’s lives.

The result is a population in Europe whose proportion of  
citizens aged 65 and older is projected to double over the next 50 years. Paradoxically, then, this innovation has also presented us with the considerable societal challenge of today and tomorrow: how can healthcare systems be made sustainable in the face of an exponential rise in longevity, taking account of the need for care, affordability and management of scarce resources?

It is a challenge that affects us all – from government to citizen, from industry to hospital ward. And the solution is one that requires the engagement and participation of all parties.


from 1 Apr 2016
to 30 Sep 2020

Research and innovation

New competitive mindset

Helium (Health Innovation Experimental Landscape through Policy Improvement) is a project that addresses these very issues. It focuses on health, wellbeing and life sciences as smart specialisation sectors with high innovation potential. Its aims include:

  • Strengthening new competitiveness through innovation
  • Linking innovation market needs and policy
  • Generating more opportunities to implement new technology in health
  • Enhancing quality of life and improving care
  • Providing better diagnosis, monitoring and physical/mental rehabilitation of patients
  • Improving policy instruments through more efficient public funding of health innovation
  • Enabling the development of better quality projects in health innovation and improved governance of policy instruments

Besides improving people’s health and quality of life, innovation  can also bring financial benefits and economic growth if it can be implemented and translated into successful business models to meet the complex needs of the care system. The failure of innovative ideas is often due to innovation systems not facilitating the scouting, creation, valorisation and market uptake of the innovation.  Helium intends to change all that with its twin objective of boosting  the development of health innovation and economic growth through sharing knowledge so that more opportunities are created to implement new technology in health. By changing the market mindset, we aim to facilitate the uptake of innovative healthcare products and services.

The Helium impact

Helium is a European collaboration between Brainport Development  (Lead partner, LP), City of Eindhoven, Thomas More Kempen, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, Semmelwels University, National Healthcare Service Center, University of Porto and the Portuguese National Innovation Agency. The establishment of a solid network will generate high added value both in societal and financial terms, meeting stakeholders needs and engaging actors who are the drivers of the experimental landscape for health innovation and can implement the actions envisaged and enabled by the policy change. Furthermore, interregional learning will help improve policy instruments in terms of governance and the ability to promote projects with greater scale, impact and sustainability in the field of health innovation.  We call on all the actors in the healthcare landscape, from public authorities  and policymakers, EU and regional networks and association, developers of healthcare products, healthcare providers and professionals to local communities and individual users and patients to engage in this initiative.

What policy instruments does the project address?

The Vlaanderen-Nederland programme sets a framework for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth in the Belgian-Dutch border region. Amongst the 4 priority axes (PA), 40% of the programme budget is dedicated to PA1 - Smart Growth. Within PA1, specific objective (SO) 1.1 supports improvement and increased accessibility of R&I infrastructure and facilities, while SO 1.2 aims at promoting innovation in businesses. Innovation support is targeting the smart specialisation sectors of the border region. Amongst them, health & well-being represent high priority. Although Vlaanderen-Nederland is one of the most integrated and successful regions in Europe, it still faces pressing challenges, many of them caused by the rapidly ageing population. While both Flanders and South-Netherlands have excellent capacities and potentials in healthcare & well-being, addressing health innovation in a cross-border context can be challenging. Healthcare-systems, patient needs, regulatory and financing frameworks differ notably from country to country, which may be an obstacle for innovation to spread across borders. Health-Inno-ExPo aims to deliver recommendations based on good European practices how the experimental landscape for health innovation may become more integrated in the border region, through connecting and scaling-up existing ingredients of health innovation delivery. Lessons learnt in the project will contribute to the entire PA1, but policy improvement will more directly target SO 1.1.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Brainport Development N.V.

Public funds are under pressure all over Europe, but cities should provide the same or even higher levels of public services (especially in case of health & social care, due to the aging society). This requires a change in public service delivery, resulting in more efficient systems. CE is therefore preparing roadmaps, which set the key objectives and framework for implementing the required change in public service provision. One of these roadmaps cover the topics health&well-being. The Roadmap Health will be finalised and adopted by the end of 2015. Its keywords will be “innovation within our quadruple helix, using a living lab environment for testing and implementation of care and well-being related solutions”. The roadmap will deal with several subjects, covering the full range of local public services which contribute to healthier and better quality life of citizens (incl. health, sports, housing, public spaces, etc.). For each subject an implementation plan will be developed during 2016-7, defining the necessary concrete measures and actions. A key subject is "Strengthening our Social Basis" which sets an overall framework for the envisaged change in public service delivery. The implementation plan for this subject will define actions, on how to use the existing social basis and networks among citizens to better exploit the opportunities arising from innovation in health&well-being through a living lab approach, thus better aligning technological and social innovation. 

Which partners are working on this?
  • City of Eindhoven

The Strategy aims to maximise investment opportunities and tackle barriers of growth in LCR with the help of EU funding. It sets 5 priority areas, one of them being the “Innovation Economy”: this portfolio supports translating LCR’s strengths in specific sectors, incl. Life Sciences, Healthcare&Bio-Medical into innovation, growth and employment opportunities. Measures will seek to create a strong and effective innovation eco-system, e.g. by increasing access to open innovation for universities and private companies, and to accelerate commercialisation of R&D by suitable facilities and finance environment. Planned interventions include the development of open access user-test facilities, R&D centres/business interfaces, facilities to support collaborative research, commercialisation, focusing also on health innovation. Financial incentives, e.g. innovation vouchers and innovative public procurement are also envisaged.

Since the amount of EU funds from which LCR will presumably benefit is quite limited compared to previous years’ allocation (ca. €222 million), it is crucial, that it’s used effictively and efficiently, maximizing impact and ensuring complimentarity with other funds. Considering that the well-being of an ageing society forms a key social challenge, while LCR has significant strengths in innovation & technology related to health, exploiting them with targeted measures based on best European practices can increase the achievable positive outcomes of the Strategy. 

Which partners are working on this?
  • Liverpool City Region Growth Company
  • Liverpool John Moores University

GINOP is the largest national SF programme of Hungary, allocating more than 8 billion Euro for improving the country’s competitiveness. It mainly targets less developed regions, but applying the relevant flexibility rules, also partly addresses Central-Hungary. It creates synergies and complementarities among all other SF programmes of Hungary, incl. the Competitive Central-Hungary regional OP. Priority Axis (PA) 2 is dedicated to improving research, technology and innovation via 1) strengthening R&I capacities and improving connectivity with international networks to increase participation in H2020 programme; 2) increasing R&I activity in businesses; and 3) improving strategic R&I networks and cooperation among innovative SMEs and research institutions. PA8 complements these measures with financial instruments to be made available to SMEs. Innovation support under PA2 and PA8 specifically targets smart specialisation sectors identified by the national S3, incl. the priority “Healthy society and wellbeing”, which promotes the widespread use of advanced health industry technologies in order to maintain and improve the general health condition of the society. GINOP is identified as the key source for funding innovation in smart specialisation sectors, therefore it has to pay high attention to the specific characteristics of innovation systems in different fields. Health-Inno-ExPo supports GINOP in identifying the most efficient measures needed to address innovation in health.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Semmelweis University
  • National Healthcare Service Center

Norte 2020 is comprised of an integrated set of priorities and funding instruments addressing the main challenges and opportunities of Portugal’s Norte region. From a budget of ca. 3.4 M€ 11,9% is allocated to Priority Axis 1, which aims at strengthening research, technological development&innovation. Experience of the 2007-2013 period showed significant challenges regarding the integration of results of R&D projects into actual business practices and implementation on the market. Norte 2020 thus applies new instruments, i.e. Collaborative Projects, Demonstration Projects and Mobilization Projects, which support the development of new products and services, the valorization of results from previous R&D projects, their demonstration in real life conditions, incl. setting up of pilot lines. Health is a key smart specialization sector to be targeted, with huge potential for interaction among different actors, cross fertilization and further valorization. Mobilization projects provide a new instrument for large-scale R&D&I collaborations involving players of the health innovation ecosystem, to reach effective knowledge transfer and commercialization of R&D results. They can also increase complementarities between EU and national/regional funding sources. Due to the novelty of this measure and the challenges of exploiting synergies among different policy instruments, the exchange of experience within Health-Inno-ExPo can strongly contribute to more efficient implementation.

Which partners are working on this?
  • University of Porto
  • Portuguese National Innovation Agency