Dr Tanya Mulcahy
Director, Health Innovation Hub Ireland
Dr Steven Griffin
Manager, Health Innovation Hub Ireland, University of Galway
A health innovation hub is driving Ireland’s healthcare sector by supporting startups in developing new products and devices to improve patient outcomes and help clinicians deliver better care.
The Health Innovation Hub Ireland (HIHI) was established in 2016 to support the country’s burgeoning healthcare industry. It ensures the best ideas from startup businesses and enterprises reach their full potential. A wide range of products and services have already been developed, with more in the pipeline.
Matching innovation with expertise
Its manager, Dr Steven Griffin, says enterprises engage with HIHI via its online innovation portal, with the idea assessed, reviewed and evaluated before companies are matched with relevant expertise. “Once at the prototype stage, the product goes in front of users, prescribers and people with clinical or technical expertise to give critical feedback so that they build the right product for the right people,” he adds. Medical devices and digital systems are also piloted before market release.
National Director Dr Tanya Mulcahy, says: “Our differentiator is that we are embedded in academic institutions and the healthcare system and are uniquely positioned so that companies can leverage support.” Connecting enterprise and clinical delivery, she emphasises the importance of feedback from clinical end users at an early stage to ensure product development proceeds in the right direction.
A product idea should be useful to the
healthcare system and address a real problem.
Ideas addressing clinical needs
A product idea should be useful to the healthcare system and address a real problem — whether in primary care, an acute hospital or diagnostically. “Our job is to ‘triage’ the perceived good ideas, prototypes and products and pick ones we know are going to be successful and address a need,” Mulcahy says. For instance, its FemTech programme brings together innovators in women’s health for products and services to address what has been an under-served area for investment and research.
Supporting jobs and global health
Among other innovations, that process has seen interventional radiologists test devices; development of patient apps; and surgical innovations within the orthopaedic sector. “The health technology sector is an important economic element for Ireland by supporting thousands of jobs, and we are enabling small companies to fast-track development of their products and become successful,” insists Mulcahy. “From an Ireland point of view, we hope they will be exported worldwide and be successful and contribute to more and better jobs and health outcomes.”
HIHI, a national entity seated in universities in Cork, Galway and Dublin, has recently launched the Clinical Innovation Award for healthcare staff who have an early-stage idea to apply for 15,000 euros to explore market opportunities.