Innovation for a Healthy Life

Top Austrian companies are establishing a regional innovation hub under the umbrella of EIT Health, the largest European health network.

With 150 leading players from the European healthcare system and more than 1,000 affiliated start-ups, “EIT Health”, initiated by the European Institute for Innovation and Technology (EIT) and funded by the EU, forms the largest European innovation network of its kind. On Thursday, May 6, 2021, the meeting of the EIT Health partners voted by a majority to add a seventh hub in Austria to the existing six European hubs.

The six Austrian founding partners – AIT Austrian Institute of Technology, Boehringer Ingelheim RCV, SanusX (corporate start-up of the UNIQA Insurance Group), Kapsch BusinessCom, the Wild Group and the Viennese start-up service INiTS – are now establishing the Co-Location Center (CLC) Austria within EIT Health. The goal of this regional innovation hub based in Vienna is to embed the European network regionally and thereby create an innovation ecosystem to increase the innovation potential of cutting-edge research for health technologies for health care, diagnosis and prevention and to implement it for rapid market entry. 

Extending life with high quality by three years 

EIT Health’s ambition to extend life in Europe by three years by 2027 through better prevention and healthcare requires a more sustainable healthcare system and further increases in competitiveness. 

“The European Institute of Innovation and Technology strengthens innovation capacity in Europe through regionally anchored networks of business, research and education through training for tomorrow’s skills, collaborative development of products & services, integration and promotion of start-ups & scale-ups,” explains Jan-Philipp Beck, CEO of EIT Health. 

The focus is on market and application-oriented research for patient-oriented solutions and the rapid implementation of prototypes into market-ready products. Therefore, in addition to industry and associated entrepreneurs in start-ups, universities, non-university research institutions and health care providers are also represented in EIT Health. Together, new products and services are to be brought to the European market more efficiently. Young companies are specifically promoted and new educational offers are made available. 

Regional anchoring of a Europe-wide network 

“The conditions in the health sector vary greatly from region to region, so cooperation between all relevant sectors and available resources in a region is essential in order to be able to implement innovations in the health sector in an impact-oriented way and to promote entrepreneurship,” explains Dirk Holste, Research Manager at the AIT Center for Health & Bioresources, who coordinates the activities of CLC Austria in EIT Health. “The advantages of the network are obvious: long-term partnerships, projects close to the market from a medium level of technology readiness with a business plan, simplified project applications, access to promising start-ups and up-to-date educational offers – all under one umbrella,” says Holste. 

“Austria offers good conditions for this: We have an efficient industry, strong life science clusters and a well-developed healthcare system. At the same time, we also have a great need for innovations in the field of digitalisation,” explains Philipp von Lattorff, General Director of Boehringer Ingelheim RCV, based in Vienna. 

Close cooperation in the service of health 

The Austrian founding partners of EIT Health are already actively cooperating with numerous other organisations (such as the Medical University of Graz, Danube University Krems, the consulting company BDO and the Umbrella Organisation of Austrian Social Insurance Institutions as future partners in CLC Austria) and start-ups and are also supported by stakeholders from the Vienna Business Agency, national life science clusters (LISAvienna, Cluster Life Science Tyrol, Styria), the Ludwig Boltzmann Society, the Research Funding Agency FFG and two federal ministries. 

“We have already seen in the federal government’s “Corona Emergency Call” how capable Austria is as a life science location with more than 1,000 companies and more than 55,000 employees. The closer networking of key players with each other and with European partners in a strong network gives the location a further boost,” explains Margarete Schramböck, Federal Minister for Digitalisation and Economic Development (BMDW). 

Wolfgang Mückstein, Federal Minister for Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection (BMSGPK) highlights that the even stronger establishment of the Europe-wide EIT Health network in Austria will create important synergies. “In this way, we are linking the innovations from Austrian and European health care even more closely and strengthening the reliability of care in Austria in the long run. We have seen the potential of digitalisation and especially innovative e-health solutions to further improve the health of our citizens all the way up to personal health competency,” says Mückstein. 

Strong partners in Vienna and beyond

“With more than 550 companies and institutes and one of the highest research ratios in Europe, Vienna has established itself as an innovative life science location and offers EIT Health an excellent basis,” emphasises Peter Hanke, Vienna City Councillor for Economic Affairs. 

An important partner of the network is also the Vienna Wirtschaftskammer (Chamber of Commerce): “Our goal is to make Vienna a leading international health metropolis. I am therefore pleased that in a joint effort we have succeeded in bringing an innovation hub of the largest and most important European health network to Vienna. This is exactly the kind of success we need to make Vienna even more attractive as a life science location – this will make it more likely that further international companies will settle here,” says Alexander Biach, Vienna’s location lawyer and Deputy Director of the Vienna Wirtschaftskammer, with conviction.

About the EIT Health

The European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) Health is one of eight innovation centres under the umbrella of the EU research framework programme “Horizon Europe”. The EIT brings together innovative organisations from industry, research, universities and entrepreneurs in a unique network for open innovation to specifically increase Europe’s innovation capacity. Innovation, entrepreneurship and education are combined and promoted in one network. 

EIT Health has around 150 partners from industry, applied research, universities, hospitals and healthcare providers; it is also affiliated with around 1,000 start-ups. To embed the European network regionally, six Co-Location Centres (CLC) have been set up so far, among others in Stockholm, Paris or Mannheim. Now another CLC is being established in Austria. Since 2015, the EU has invested almost 300 million euros in EIT Health. Further funding of around 450 million euros or a total budget of 1.5 billion euros is expected by 2027. 

The AIT Austrian Institute of Technology – with 1,400 employees the largest non-university research institution in Austria – with the Centres: Health & Bioresources, Innovation Systems & Policy and Technology Experience, has succeeded as a driving force to bring together national partners from different areas of the health sector in order to establish the largest European health network in Austria.

Original Press Release (German):