Open innovation for better health care is high on regional policy agendas across Europe. Reaching from experimentation, co-creation and orchestration to the 'win more – win more' principle, numerous buzz-words map out the latest trends in business.


But how to fill these buzz-words with life? How to enhance regional health innovation policies through the living lab concept in practice?

In their search for possible answers and solutions, the partners of the HELIUM project decided to look beyond the horizon of their own work by teaming up with the Interreg Europe projects ITHACA and HoCare and other key innovation stakeholders. Hosted by Brainport Development on 25 October 2018 in the dynamic metropole of Eindhoven and facilitated by the Policy Learning Platform of Interreg Europe, the launched cross-project exchange was characterised by the values of openness, curiosity and hands-on guidance, thus providing clear directions for the way forward:

  • As outlined by Bror Salmelin, former adviser for innovation systems at the European Commission, the pooling of skills and capital across 'institutional borders' will be decisive for the success of mission-oriented innovation. Consequently new 'out-of-the-box' organisational cultures and a holistic perspective on the challenges of today’s world are required to overcome 'silo thinking' and single-disciplinary innovation approaches
  • For regional policies supporting purpose-driven economic activities, the work done by the ITHACA project offers very valuable inspiration and food for thought. For instance, as featured by Astrid Kaag, lead partner of the project from the Dutch region of Noord-Brabant, a public-private financing tool based on the principles of a social impact bond was successully set up in her region, easing the challenge of access to finance for purpose-driven entrepreneurs
  • As underlined by all panellists during the round-table discussion on the spot, living labs are well-suited to build the development of new products and services on the principles of early prototyping, experimentation, user-orientation and stakeholder involvement. In order to better involve SMEs in open innovation processes, however, living lab infrastructures need to embark on new ways of communicating and promoting their services. The European Network of Living Labs (ENoLL), bringing together more than 130 living labs from all around the world, offers valuable practical guidance and examples in this regard.
  • At the same time, cross-border cooperation and internationalisation offer the perspective of fully exploiting the potential of the living lab concept. The Cross Care project supported by the Interreg V-A programme between Flanders and the Netherlands, for instance, provides convincing evidence for the value of joining forces across borders. In particular, each supported innovation project receives tailor-made support from both a Flemish and a Dutch living lab, thus facilitating market entry and collaboration along the entire care and value chain.

  All presentations are available on the HELIUM project website, here

Beyond the presentations and discussions featured during the event, the lead partner of the Cross Care project, LiCalab from Flanders, also invited the participants to an interactive living lab exercise, thus allowing the audience to 'taste the flavour' of joint product co-creation in practice. In parallel, Jason Taylor, General Manager Innovation at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital Trust in Liverpool, gave insights into the open innovation hub established within Alder’s hospital setting, designed to provide clinical, start-up and technical expertise for clinical entrepreneurs.

Altogether, building on their overall satisfaction with lessons learnt throughout the day, the participants left the event with the motivation to continue and deepen the triggered cross-project exchanges, knowing that the Policy Learning Platform remains at their disposal for further guidance and support.

Photo by Hush Naidoo on Unsplash