Promoting University of Applied Sciences as innovation and entrepreneurship centres for Digital Health
The European healthcare systems face increasing pressure due to ageing populations and the rise of chronic diseases. The current pandemic has even aggravated the situation, also because it led to a higher number of undiagnosed and untreated medical conditions. The report ‘Health in the 21st Century’ regards digital technologies as a means to cope with these and future challenges and as a driver of transformation in the health sector. This, however, requires coordinated efforts of digital health Universities as key knowledge stakeholders in the European innovation ecosystem.
Universities are still ill-prepared to serve as a regional ‘home base’ for students and academics, but also adult-learners, freelancers, start-ups, SMEs, and other stakeholders in the Digital Health sector. Even though they have been implementing mechanisms to enhance the entrepreneurial culture and create new businesses for two decades, the connectedness to their regions remains low. Specifically, developments in the Digital Health sector are mainly driven by disjointed actions of regional or national stakeholders. Universities are currently not at the front seat of the digital health innovation, although they have a unique advantage in furthering entrepreneurship beyond value creation through incubation. They are also well positioned to unite stakeholders and truly become a home base for innovation and entrepreneurship in Digital Health.
To become a central driver in promoting Digital Health innovations, UASs require support programs that contribute to
- capability growth and improvement of entrepreneurship and incubation arms in Digital Health.
- professional development of the staff at and affiliated to incubators, entrepreneurship centers and departments.
- personal development of academics and facilitated interactions with and between aspiring entrepreneurs to leverage peer learning.
- building a regional and European innovation community that promotes entrepreneurship in Digital Health and engagement with SMEs, hospitals, municipality, care facilities, mentors, investors etc.
In a first step, current UAS home-based incubation processes in Digital Health as well as the regional and institutional context are investigated and potentials for improvement are identified. Second, a peer-learning community of the participating UAS including their incubators and regional stakeholders is set-up. In addition, structures for regional and international knowledge exchange are established. This shall facilitate cross-national and regional co-development of UAS incubators through sharing good practice, experts and mentors. Third, value creation from both student and academic entrepreneurship activities is improved. This also involves fostering regional development by raising the capacity of professional and academic staff to support incubations, start-up/spin-off/spinout activities. Finally, to showcase the results of the project they are disseminated pro-actively.
The concept of a transnational network of regional UAS-based incubators to boost Digital Health is particularly novel. There are already initiatives to create European-wide educational networks, but UASHome specifically brings together both UAS and incubators. An environment is set up where key insights and learnings are shared regionally and internationally. Project partners are given greater opportunity to strengthen their bonds with other UASs and frame their students’ professional needs in a more global context. Good practices and resources are shared and learning from each other’s experiences is encouraged and facilitated. All this leads to new and complementary knowledge that can serve as inspiration and give projects a new direction. On the whole, UASHome makes a direct contribution to further the regions around the UASs by unlocking their innovation capacity.
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Research and Knowledge Transfer
- UIIN (Netherlands)
- UCLL (Belgium)
- Crazy Town (Finland)
- JAMK (Finland)