The Basque Country consolidates its position as a benchmark “technology hub” and a leading region in bio-health R&D&I
The Spanish Federation of Healthcare Technology Companies, Fenin, the research and technological development centre Tecnalia, the Basque Health Cluster and the Spanish Society of Surgical Research (SEIQ) have organised a meeting to promote the high-value healthcare industrial fabric in the region, which in turn enables entrepreneurship and the generation and retention of talent.
The Basque Country is a leading autonomous community in terms of technological and industrial development centres, especially in fields such as medical devices and robotics, with a clear commitment by the Basque Government to public-private collaboration.
The conference encouraged networking and the promotion of projects between start-ups, companies with a long track record in the Healthcare Technology Sector associated with Fenin and research groups.
To consolidate the Basque Country as a benchmark “technology hub” in bio-health R&D&I, to strengthen the high-value business fabric and to generate, attract and retain talent for the region. With these objectives in mind, different actors that make up the innovative and healthcare ecosystem – public institutions, start-ups, R&D&I groups, industry, and technological and clinical centres – met on 18 and 19 October at the Forum ‘Matchmaking Innovation in Healthcare: Smart Medical Devices and Robotics’ organised by Fenin’s Spanish Platform for Innovation in Healthcare Technology; the Tecnalia research and technological development centre; the Basque Health Cluster and the Spanish Society for Surgical Research (SEIQ). The Basque Government, the SPRI Group, BIC Bizkaia, Basque Research & Technology (BRTA), the ITEMAS Platform of the Carlos III Health Institute, the Spanish Society of Biomedical Engineering (SEIB) and the Spanish Society of Health Managers (Sedisa) also collaborated in this initiative.
The meeting was attended by Estíbaliz Hernáez, Deputy Minister of Technology, Innovation and Digital Transformation of the Basque Government and President of the Euskadi Technology Park, and José Luis Quintas, Deputy Minister of Health. The Deputy Minister defended the importance of public-private collaboration to generate a high-value industrial fabric: “the bio-health sector is a strong sector in R&D&I, knowledge and capital that deserves the continued support of the Administration”, she said. Regarding this ‘Matchmaking Innovation in Health’ Forum, Estíbaliz Hernáez valued that “it allows visibility to be given to what is being done in the Basque Country for innovation and entrepreneurship, and puts this region in the spotlight of start-ups, investors and qualified personnel”.
In line with his counterpart, the Basque Deputy Minister of Health stated that “in addition to the optimal incorporation of healthcare technology into the system, it is necessary to promote research and innovation in collaboration with the science-technology-business ecosystem, as reflected in the Basque Government’s Strategic Framework for Health Research and Innovation 2022-2025”.
Margarita Alfonsel, secretary general of the Spanish Federation of Healthcare Technology Companies, Fenin, also spoke about the optimal development and incorporation of innovations. “The lack of penetration in our market of the products manufactured by our industry is still a challenge to be overcome,” she said. To reverse this situation, Alfonsel is committed to public-private synergies such as those promoted at this forum that allow “to continue discovering new products, services and opportunities and business models with which to respond to industrial healthcare challenges, and generate new models of collaboration that, in turn, generate more industry”.
Elena Schaeidt, Director of Corporate Development at TECNALIA, highlighted the importance of bringing together the entire ecosystem in the field of smart medical devices and medical robotics, with this forum being a meeting point for researchers, clinicians, start-ups, companies and public administrations. “Our mission at TECNALIA, as a technology centre, is to develop knowledge and technologies that solve problems for companies and society or that are the seed of new start-ups that generate impact in our territory”.
Meanwhile, the president of the Basque Health Cluster, Asier Albizu, placed special emphasis on two points: on the one hand, he pointed out the importance of promoting both private-private and private-public collaboration, and on the other, the importance of the industry being proactive and proposing ways and strategies of collaboration to the care sector with actions with which to begin to work together and which lead to a common objective of growth in this sector, thus combining need-response. Albizu has vindicated the role of the Basque Health Cluster “as a key agent to promote the strengthening of these bridges and boost this ongoing collaboration”.
From the SEIQ, its president, Julio Mayol, recognised the importance of “the incorporation of clinicians and researchers into a healthcare innovation ecosystem that drives the transformation of healthcare systems through R&D&I”. “This Forum is a unique opportunity for clinicians, technologists and the productive sector to come together and co-design the future of 5P health: preventive, predictive, participatory, personalised and population-based”, he added.
One-to-one meetings to explore funding opportunities
During the meeting, the different participating start-ups had the opportunity to present their products and services in the field of ‘Smart Medical Devices & Robotics’ to healthcare technology companies and clinical and technological research centres in order to explore public-private funding opportunities. After these presentations, a space was opened for networking and the holding of ‘one to one’ meetings between entrepreneurial companies and companies associated with Fenin and potential funders of their projects.
In addition to this commitment to networking, the programme included various conferences and round tables where, from the clinical and industrial perspectives, the challenges, needs and opportunities of bio-health R&D&I were analysed, with a special focus on the field of robotics.
Also, on the 18th, a “Health Robotics Arena” was organised, an innovative format in which doctors from different hospitals presented various real “clinical challenges” that they face in their day-to-day healthcare practice so that technicians from companies and start-ups present at the meeting could propose solutions to these challenges based on innovation and the development of technological tools.
This forum held in the Basque Country joins other ‘Health Innovation Matchmakings’ that have already taken place in Madrid, Asturias and the Basque Country itself in 2022, and which will be continued with future meetings in new regions. All of them with the same objective: to promote technological poles of reference throughout the country for the benefit of the healthcare system and society.