InnoBRIDGE is an initiative of InnovatioCuris (IC) along with Swedish partners, Swecare and Business Region Gothenburg, where the primary aim is to create a seamless access platform for the Indian healthcare stakeholders to the Swedish healthcare stakeholders, to strengthen healthcare collaboration between Indian healthcare organizations and the Swedish organizations and showcase the best of Swedish healthcare to the Indian delegates.
Innovation unit in Hospitals
The hospitals that we visited had an innovation unit running over ten years and have formalized the innovation process. From sourcing of unmet needs from stakeholders (patients, care providers etc) to running of an innovation marathon. Such an intervention can be beneficial for hospitals in India and a collaboration can be sought from interested Swedish hospitals to launch such trainings and innovation programs.
Developing healthcare AI
Through the intervention of innovation units in hospitals and county level regional initiatives, Swedish agencies are evolving the understanding of developing AI solutions. With possibilities to pay with data to develop AI tools, hands-on experiments about trying latest AI tools to build an informative position are some of the considerations already being made at the Swedish end. There is a natural synergy between India and Sweden on the topic of AI. India can offer data to build AI and can gain from the Swedish expertise of processes and considerations to be made for collecting and refining data. These synergies were discussed at the India Nordic Seminar by stakeholders in detail from both sides.
New Innovation Model of large private companies to incubate SMEs
A path breaking innovation model, which is experimented by AstraZeneca in form of AZ Bioventures at their Gothenborg site was a key showcase of the visit. Home to some 30 SMEs for last 5 years, the model has already resulted in 5 Initial Public Offers to some billion dollar successes. The model was discussed in last year’s Davos Summit and now actively being taken up by other corporates like ABB, Volvo in Sweden and AkzoNobel in Netherlands as an inspiration to unlock innovation in the ecosystem.
Figure 1 - Indian delegation with Swecare members at H2 Health Hub
The visit started with a visit to H2 Health Hub in Stockholm which is a coworking space where Nordic Health Tech startups can connect, collaborate and share their innovations. Currently, there are 45 startups representing 26 countries in this space. The Indian delegation met representatives from the Swedish Ministry of Health, Swecare, SMEs and startups comprising of medical technologies, wellness, Health IT, mental health, pharmaceutical, radiology solutions, etc. The Sweden Ministry of Health representative shared his views on how Sweden is facilitating cross-border collaboration with India by using innovation to increase social impact such as the 10-years MoU signed between Sweden and AIIMS Jodhpur aimed at learning and exchanging best practices. The discussion also pointed out the India-Sweden collaborative industrial research and development program between Vinnova (Swedish government agency) and GITA (executing organization under the Department of Science and Technology, India). The collaboration aims at innovation projects linked to addressing global challenges such as climate change and sustainable developments.
Figure 2 - Visit to EMPE diagnostics at Karolinska Institute Campus
The Indian delegates got an opportunity to go around the Karolinska Institute (KI), Sweden’s largest medical university, and academic research center. Since 1901, the Nobel Assembly at KI has selected the Nobel laureates in Physiology or Medicine. The prime institute has university hospital, science park and innovation center. EMPE diagnostics which has background from KI and in collaboration with KI researchers presented their rapid diagnostic solution for Tuberculosis (Tb). The test uses DNA sequencing which can correctly identify virus or bacteria and their antimicrobial resistance within 2 hrs. India has around 86,000 new cases of Tb per day and 1.7 billion people at risk. Considering these statistics, EMPE through InnovatioCuris (IC) are looking forward to venture into the Indian market.
Next was a visit to Karolinska Hospital and its Innovation Unit which has collaboration with 8 EU countries. The Region Stockholm has a policy for innovation i.e. every organization should have an innovation center. The Innovation Center is a great model which encourage and engage all stakeholders, such as health professionals, patients, medical researchers and industrial partners to address unmet needs in hospital services through innovation. The innovation activities happen in day-to-day work at all levels and across each department. The center helps identify needs, define areas for innovation and develop the best solution. There is also a certification course for innovation leaders and managers. The center showcased project I-AID (Integrated AI Diagnostics) which aims to accelerate the development and implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare initially focusing on medical imaging and physiology. This is a learning for Indian healthcare sector wherein the hospitals foster innovation in their own setting by creating an environment where ideas can become reality.
Figure 3 - Indian delegation appreciating the serene and modern setting of Karolinska University Hospital
A part of the Indian delegation also visited the Swedish Agency for Health Technology Assessment and Assessment of Social Services (SBU). Health Technology Assessment (HTA) involves systematic independent assessment of a method, including side-effects, cost-effectiveness, and ethical implications. SBU is one of the oldest organizations in the field of HTA and expressed interest in collaborating with India.
Figure 4 - Indian delegation members with SBU Staff, Sophie Werko
The second day was in Uppsala, the fourth largest city in Sweden. Uppsala University is the oldest university in Sweden. The visit started with Region Uppsala where the delegation was welcomed by the chairman of the board, Vivianne Macdisi. Region Uppsala Innovation has a R&D department for 2 hospitals, primary care centers, and mobile units. The ideas from employees, patients, and relatives are collected by each hospital unit’s idea coordinator. The ideas are assessed and approved by idea counsel. The feedback on the idea is conveyed to the ideator. Region Uppsala innovation also organizes a workshop called innovation race where companies and innovators such as employees generate ideas and work together towards the idea.
The county also has Uppsala Innovation Center (UIC) which is the world’s fourth-best university-affiliated business incubator. UIC offers business development programs and supports innovative startups and growth companies to commercialize, scale-up and access the international market. UIC provides expert help, awareness and knowledge for companies, and a national platform to connect the best companies.
Figure 5 - Dr V K Singh from Indian delegation presented his healthcare innovation book to the chairman of Swecare board and Uppsala regional council, Ms Vivianne Macdisi
The delegation had the opportunity to attend e-health matchmaking event, Vitalis which is the largest eHealth event in Scandinavian. Vitalis themes included Artificial Intelligence, IoT, Decision support, medical imaging, home care, elderly care, remote health care, and robotics.
The Business Region Gothenburg and Swecare organized a special seminar ‘AI and Collaborations in AI and Innovation’. The keynote speech was given by Linda Swirtun, program manager of Vinnova, Sweden’s government agency for innovation. Vinnova funds healthcare/life sciences innovation projects and research by collaborating internationally. Under the Swedish- Indian Innovation Partnership, the Swedish companies can collaborate with companies in India in joint research and innovation projects to address global challenges such as climate change and sustainable development. The corporate-driven collaborations can be in the area of smart cities and clean technologies, digitalization, and IoT.
Figure 6 - Linda Swirtun sharing the first keynote about India Sweden Collaboration
The panel discussions had representatives from the Nordic-Baltic region and India. The first panel focused on the transnational collaborations between the two regions and its challenges. Rohini Pimple, RICH, Dr V K Singh, InnovatioCuris, Dr Sandeep Bhalla, PHFI, Kingshuk Poddar, Medivalley Incubator represented the Indian side. Lars Lindskold, Swelife AI Institute, Iris Ohrn, Business Region Gothenburg, Jaanus Pikani, Scanbalt Forum and Magnus Bjorsne, AZ BioVenturehub represented the Nordic Baltic side. The session was moderated by Shampa Bari of Swecare. The Indian panelist discussed how the current government has been very supportive and driving innovation in all sectors. There have been changes in policies and regulations which has led to a smooth process for collaborations. India has huge data which can be used to develop AI tools by countries like Sweden. Also, knowledge sharing between the regions could be beneficial. The panelist further discussed the unmet needs, and public-private partnership models working in India. The research cluster of India shared the opportunities of life sciences. The government incubation center shared how it can be a soft-landing spot for Nordic-Baltic companies for medical devices. The representative from the Public Health Foundation of India discussed the challenges in public health in India and how capacity building can be done at scale. The Nordic-Baltic panelist emphasized on the various technologies which are relevant for India. In addition, the representative from Business Region Gothenburg stated that it is easier to do research collaboration – to test and validate one’s product in Sweden as compared to others. Furthermore, the Nordic/Baltic region has a strong IP protection regime. Therefore, the collaboration will be a win-win situation for both the regions.
Figure 7 - First panel had regions and clusters from both sides discussing collaboration
The second panel brought together hands-on experts on AI both from the developer and user side. Indian side was represented by Pradeep Mathapati, HCL, Deepali Jetley, Qwazent Healthcare. Swedish side was represented by Annie Chandy from LUDC, Devdatt Dhubhashi from Chalmers University of Technology and Peter Soderman from Karolinska University Hospital. The session was moderated by Sachin Gaur from InnovatioCuris. The panel discussed in depth the challenges of AI development and how processes are evolving at the end of the health system to collect and refine data. Interesting observations were made on the role of data in AI, future job roles for AI in health sector and business models that may emerge when the providers and IT players collaborate.
Figure 8 - Panel 2 keynote was shared by Pradeep Mathapati from HCL Germany office
The last day gave a perspective about the second largest city of Sweden, Gothenburg. The delegation was welcomed by Business Region Gothenburg, West Swedish Chamber of Commerce, and Surgical Science. Surgical Science have virtual reality simulators for surgeries like evidence-based laparoscopic and endoscopic training. The representative of West Swedish Chamber of Commerce discussed why Sweden is interested in investing in India as it is an emerging market after China, and it is a volume market with rich data. India also has a large pool of highly skilled IT professionals. On the other hand, Sweden is one of the world’s largest 10 economies and has become one of the most innovative countries in the world. Sweden is home to companies like Volvo, Ericsson, SKF, Spotify, Skype, IKEA, etc. The Indian team visited the Sahlgrenska University hospital along with Gothia Forum, which has 54 clinics in West Sweden for clinical trials.
Figure 9 - Expert from Surgical Science ready to give us a handson training on various surgeries (ofcourse simulated)
Furthermore we visited Biobank West, a Swedish Biobank showed their infrastructure where they store the blood and tissue samples. Companies such as Surgical Science, Biobank West are actively looking out for collaboration with India.
Figure 10 - Site visit of Gothia Forum, Swedish Bio Bank
The last stop was at the famous Swedish pharmaceutical company Astra Zeneca (AZ) which has been ranked number one in IDEA Pharma’s Pharmaceutical Innovation Index (PII). An interesting model has been adopted by AZ called AZ BioVenture Hub. It is a collaborative innovation ecosystem for emerging biotech, medtech companies, and academic groups to strengthen competitiveness in the Nordic life science industry. AZ provides space to the SMEs and an opportunity to interact with highly-skilled AZ professionals. In addition, the SMEs can use the state-of-the-art lab facilities and infrastructure of AZ. Currently, there are thirty companies in the AZ BioVenture Hub.
Figure 11 - Indian delegation with Magnus, Pernila and Jesper from AZ BioVentures and GoCo City
AZ has also enabled a bigger initiative called as GoCo Health Innovation City. GoCo will be a collaborative innovation ecosystem with more than 30 companies working in biotech, medtech, and academia. This city will be completed in eight years and will have co-innovation programs and services such as networking events, experienced facilitators to mentor the innovator, connecting members with similar challenges, growth guides. It will be a place for focused work and healthy living.
Figure 12 - Field visit to the site of planned GoCo Health City
The way forward
Sweden being the global innovation leader and start-up hotbed can be a great example for India. The country has an innovation policy and each county is working towards it. It is focusing on the unmet needs of the population and fostering a culture of innovation. The Swedish innovations can be plugged into the Indian ecosystem and vice versa. Innovation is fostered by opening boundaries, by gathering insights and information from new connections, and by sharing knowledge. Keeping this in mind, InnoBRIDGE was envisioned and continuously working towards other collaborations.
We look forward to build on the initial interests among stakeholders from both sides in form of knowledge webinars, physical visits and signing of MoUs in cases of where the concrete plans emerge. The next milestone for us would be InnoHEALTH 2019, 4-5 October where interested Swedish stakeholders plan to visit us in India and hopefully by then we would have progressed on some of the existing discussions. Also, some of our Indian delegates look forward to participate in Vitalis next year!
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