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Key learnings: The silver economy and opportunities for SMEs

By Platform
People discussing around a table

On 30 March 2023, the Policy Learning Platform hosted a webinar on the topic of Silver economy: Opportunities for SMEs

During the webinar, we explored and discussed approaches and examples of how public-private initiatives can foster the emergence of innovative solutions and economic growth for the silver economy, with a focus on healthcare-related solutions.   

Webinar recording

Webinar agenda

Moderation and concept by Rene Tonnisson and Luc Schmerber, Thematic Experts on SME competitiveness.

00:01:06 Introduction to the topic by Rene Tonnisson, Thematic Expert on SME competitiveness 

00:11:14  Presentation by Alice Charlet on Silver Surfer, a call for innovative silvery economy projects, and HIPA living lab, which tests products and solutions for the elderly

00:27:21 Q&A: Based on your experience, do you feel that currenlty the development initiative for silver economy comes from the public sector or are companies leading the innovation? 

00:30:06 Q&A: How is the collaboration working with the companies? Do you have agreements? 

00:33:46 Presentation by Joanne Boyle on the Healthy Ageing Innovation Cluster

00:50:04 Q&A: Which type of organisations are members? And can you describe the membership?

00:55:45 Presentation by Balazs Barta on Novel Solutions for Healthy Ageing

01:10:12 Q&A: Most of your activities are targeted to product development and prototyping. Do you already have products that are available on the market? 

01:11:29 Q&A: In terms of your business model, for the products that are already on the market, who is covering the services costs of development and testing? 

Panel discussion

01:14:53 Q&A: How can you take into account the fact that many elderly people are not able to adapt and use highly technological and digital solutions? 

01:20:03 Q&A: Do you feel that the current trends and market situation of silver economy is caused by a technology push approach or is it based on a technology pull? 

Key learnings
  • Older people are not technology averse

It is a common misconception that older people are intrinsically more technology averse than the average population. However, there is a strong need for solution providers to provide good user experiences so that their products and services find acceptance on the market.

The issue of user experience is not limited to the end user themselves but also to the professional and non-professional (e.g., family members) caregivers, which lay a significant role in the use of many applications.

  • Testing infrastructure and the involvement of end users is key for the development of new solutions

Technology innovation is not sufficient to reach the market – business models and service model innovation need also to be taken into account. Providing support to companies in terms of user experience design and testing of their solutions with end-users in close to real-life contexts are essential to support services to be offered by clusters and innovations platforms.

Quality test infrastructure, including access to end-users, can significantly accelerate the market readiness of new solutions and represent strong bottlenecks for small companies.

  • Developing quadruple-helix ecosystems and places for sharing is key

Healthcare is a complex system, with a strong social impact, involving public authorities, public and private care-providing organisations, research organisations, private companies bringing technology to the market, and obviously the citizens/users themselves and their many organisations.

In order to generate economic impact on the regional scale, it is essential to have a place – like a cluster or an innovation platform – bringing all the parties to the table and ensuring constructive exchanges toward shared objectives and strategic alignment. Strong stakeholder engagement and commitment is a pre-requisite for success.

  • Challenge-based approaches are useful for stimulating the emergence of innovative ideas

Considering the multiple facets of the market for healthcare solutions (including smart home solutions) for older people, it is recommended to organise events and calls for proposals building on open challenge-based approaches – i.e. focusing on solving problems – rather than purely technology-push approaches. This can be done in the framework of events, for instance, hackathons or interest groups, or dedicated open calls for proposals.


Download the presentations of this event below.