Health Innovation Hub announces call for innovative healthcare start-ups

19 Jun 2018

From left: Aisling Dolan, Paddy McGowan, Gillian O’Mahony, Diana Hogan-Murphy, Noreen Lynch, Noel Murphy, Dr Colman Casey, Niamh Allen, Emily Naylor, Dan Maher, Jane O’Flynn, Tanya Mulcahy and Eimear Galvin. Image: Trinity College Dublin

Health Innovation Hub is looking for unique start-ups to help improve the Irish health service.

A Government initiative called Health Innovation Hub Ireland (HIHI) today (19 June) launches a national call – both focused and open – to industry.

This year’s call is aimed at SMEs, start-ups and companies that have products or services at the pre-commercial, demonstration or late development phases. The call will culminate in a national Dragon’s Den-style pitch, with the winning products fast-tracked into Ireland’s health service for study.

HIHI offers a unique pathway for start-ups looking for a pilot or validation study to accelerate their commercialisation journey.

Hub seeking innovators

The first stage of the call is open until 31 August, during which companies need to submit an application.

At the second stage, a rigorous pitch process begins for the successful applicants, with representatives from Enterprise Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland, the Health Research Board and the HSE, among others, in attendance.

Stage three will see HIHI act as a broker, matching up companies with relevant clinical teams and overseeing a study of each product in a real-life Irish clinical setting.

A report will then be authored once the study is completed, which can offer valuable leverage for products in competitive international markets, enhance distribution opportunities and steer subsequent development plans.

A unique opportunity

Dr Colman Casey, national director of HIHI, said: “HIHI provides a unique quid pro quo: we offer companies the opportunity for pilot and clinical validation studies, and the health service access to innovative products, services [and] devices that they may otherwise not be exposed to.

“These studies offer added credibility with investors and may help with early adoption. The fact is, if you have not tested your product in a clinical setting, then commercialisation is distinctly more difficult. Or, the HIHI study may identify that a product needs further refinement after observing its use by a clinical team, which is crucial prior to achieving commercial return on any product or device.”

Dealing with an ageing population

The focused call highlighted by the HSE, a HIHI partner, has highlighted a specific need for the Irish health service. ‘Enabling positive ageing’ is the specific request issued, with the HSE looking for products or services in areas such as dementia care, integrated care, limiting acute hospital admissions, promoting increased domestic independence, minimisation of polypharmacy and provision of care closer to home.

National HIHI lead and principal investigator Prof John Higgins said: “Our population is growing older, with the number of people aged 65 years and over increasing from 11pc in 2011 to 13pc in 2016. And this trend will continue; forecasts tell us that the number of people aged over 65 will increase by a further 18pc to 753,000 in the next five years. HIHI can provide solutions here, working in partnership with the HSE.”

Three hospital groups work with HIHI and winners will have access to the 23 participating hospitals, community facilities and three clinical research networks.

One company that took part in a previous HIHI scheme is ViClarity, a software tool that monitors compliance with regulatory standards. CEO Ogie Sheehy said: “HIHI secured ViClarity its first clinical study in a public hospital setting. We have leveraged this study both domestically and internationally when making the ViClarity pitch.”

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects