Innovation very necessary
After being diagnosed with Alzheimer, Brit Tommy Dunne’s world soon collapsed in on itself. He used to be out and about in the world and now his life had shrunk down to his wife’s company and his bed as a safe haven. His speech to the full auditorium in Eindhoven started the Think Dementia! conference. He explained how much people with dementia wish to remain independent and how, thanks to innovations, this is increasingly a realistic option. Just as smart health products helped him reconnect to society.
Tommy Dunne: “Once you’ve been diagnosed with Alzheimer the fear of being put away in a home arises and subsequently never leaves.”
Rapidly developing market
The demand for technologies and products that improve the daily lives of those with dementia will increase rapidly. In 2040, the planet is expected to be home to 115 million people with dementia. High time to scale up and market innovative products and services that have often been tested at a Living Lab. But how do you go about that?
Living Labs’ experiences
For many Living Labs upscaling is a relatively new theme. However, steps in the right direction have already been taken, explained representatives from Living Labs in Flanders, Bavaria, Liverpool and West-Brabant. For instance, LiCaLab (B) links entrepreneurs with innovations to regional care institutions. Smart House Sophia (D) has supplied multiple products to a major care institution and is now expanding on the knowledge acquired there. Care Innovation Center West-Brabant (NL) is experimenting with crowdfunding, thereby also assessing how much interest there is in a specific innovation.
The Living Labs described their difficulties in finding investors. For example, the absence of means for ‘advertising’ or government bodies that usually pay for care costs, but that do not wish to invest in products. They are also encountering the prejudice that innovative products entail high costs and the fact that many investors wish to see short-term returns.
A new type of investment will be required to upscale innovations in dementia care, argued Shabs Rajasekharan of Smarter Futures EESV. So-called Impact Investing also puts emphasis on the societal yield alongside the financial one. Together with other experts and stakeholders in 35 innovative regions in the European CORAL network, he is working on a roadmap for creating this type of investment. Essential is entering into co-creation with the investor and actively bringing innovations that are ready for upscaling to the latter’s attention.
Award for the best smart health innovation
Bringing things to people’s attention was put into practice during this afternoon programme. Seven entrepreneurs pitched the product they’re developing for people with dementia [see box below]. They received feedback from a panel of experts with a variety of backgrounds including innovation, business, market, impact and finance such as consultants Jan Roes and Jos Burkx, Jelle Vrijsen from VGZ, Ad Komen from Generous Minds and Paul Clitherhoe from the Liverpool Clinical Group. The most promising innovation was presented with the award for Excellent Smart Health Innovation.
The panel’s primary critical factor was whether or not a product had a proven effect or value and to what extent it truly contributed to the quality of life of dementia sufferers and their social environment. This was also reflected by their decision, and that of the audience, to present Damibu with the award for the best smart health innovation. The Damibu-app is full of images of objects from museums that help people with dementia reminisce together with their family or other carers.
Dave Burrows, winner: “I am really happy with the prize! I haven’t finalised my coaching question yet as my mind has been on product development. Now there’s room to contemplate upscaling.”
This actual meeting between Living Labs, manufacturers and potential investors is perfectly aligned with Mariëlle Swinkels, content manager of ENGAGED’s motto: ‘Let’s do that!’. She looks back on the ENGAGED programme that ended officially today. Its objective was to connect stakeholders from the supply and demand side both in the Netherlands and elsewhere. And that was a resounding success. Parties who didn’t know one another have gained each other’s trust which is crucial for learning with and from one another. The challenge for the future is to continue all cooperations and move forward as well as emphatically inviting financial stakeholders from the networks too.
Mariëlle Swinkels: “Let’s emphatically also invite financial stake¬holders to join our learning networks. This will make our eco¬system function better.”
Cross-Care, new EU fund
At the end of the session, Marcel de Pender, programme manager for Health Cluster Europe argued in favour of actively involving SMEs in the networks because some 56% of them invest in new products. However, many innovations never make it to market as seed money is often lacking. The EU has therefore launched the new, SME-oriented, Cross-Care programme. In order to participate, the entrepreneur has to convincingly demonstrate that his/her innovation truly has added value so that people with health limitations like Tommy Dunne can still be fully-fledged members of society. After all, that’s what it’s all about.
The seven products pitched:
- Topshake: nutritionally complete, fresh shakes as breakfasts for people who have difficulty swallowing / Michel Tops from Tops Foods
- Remind Memory Suite: practical aid apps based on the principles of and experience with game development /Chris Morland from Citrus Suite
- Damibu: app with images from museums to allow people with dementia and their caregivers to reminisce / Dave Burrows from Damibu
- Duimpjes: contact system in which a group of people keep an eye on one another, among other things, using movement sensors / Marcel Janssen from OnsPlatform TV
- iMemorizer: digital screen that indicates the day and time to help people retain their daily rhythm / Ger Schoeber from HG Innovative Solutions
- Ball vest: blankets and vests filled with plastic balls that improve people with dementia’s physical awareness /Arjan Sakkers from Sarkow BV
- eMind: digital training that guarantees improvements in working memory / Roger van Doggenaar from eMind