SciTech Europa outlines how, through its Health. E Lighthouse initiative, ECSEL is supporting the acceleration of innovation along the whole medical instrument supply chain.
The industrial innovation in medical devices and systems is lagging behind in comparison to the innovation speed in the consumer electronics industry. This is not only caused by strict quality regulations, but also by the fact that the volumes are often small compared to consumer products, which requires significant investments in non-standard manufacturing technologies. Many breakthrough innovations therefore simply do not make it to the market and end up in the ‘valley of death.’
The ECSEL Joint Undertaking – the Public-Private Partnership for Electronic Components and Systems – funds research, development and innovation projects for world-class expertise in these key enabling technologies, essential for Europe’s competitive leadership in the era of the digital economy.
‘Through the ECSEL JU,’ their website states, ‘the European industry, SMEs and research and technology organisations are supported and co-financed by 30 ECSEL Participating States and the European Union.’
A prominent feature of the ECSEL JU presence at the recent EFECS conference, which SciTech Europa attended as the Media Partner, was their ‘Lighthouse Initiatives’. But what are these exactly?
What is a ‘Lighthouse Initiative’?
A Lighthouse Initiative is a concept introduced by the ECSEL Joint Undertaking to signpost specific subjects of common European interest. This calls for co-ordinated activities, for example facilitating the co-operation of several ECSEL project (RIAs and/or IAs), with H2020 (e.g. FET Flagships), Eureka, national or regional projects, etc. They will facilitate the contribution to standardisation or assist in the uptake of technology to address societal challenges. Lighthouse Initiatives provide a ‘container’ (or ‘umbrella’) for a set of well-co-ordinated activities.
The ECSEL JU Governing Board plays a pivotal role, as it is uniquely positioned to raise the agenda of the Lighthouse Initiatives with the ECSEL Participating States, the European Commission, the industry and other relevant stakeholders/communities.
In summary, a Lighthouse Initiative will build on well-identified market-pull demands related to societal needs. For these it can offer visionary solutions for those demands, creating ecosystems along the relevant value and supply chains and have a strong pan-European dimension in each of the steps (demands, solutions, ecosystems, technologies, demonstrators, etc.). In doing so, it will inevitably need to drive a relevant standardisation strategy and address the associated non-technical aspects (such as legislative, regulatory, social, etc).
One of the goals is to break down silos that can exist in certain areas, so (whenever appropriate), they will work towards the clustering of projects within their remit – irrespective of their ‘home’ funding instrument – and organise the attraction of other contributing projects as needed. It goes without saying that, when co-ordinating such extensive collaborative research, it must provide for a strategic IP management policy wherever possible, and of course agreed to by the consortia.
In this sense, Lighthouse Initiatives combine bottom-up and top-down approaches, with top-down referring to the selection/endorsement of Lighthouse Initiatives and later strategic guidance provided by the ECSEL Governing Board and built upon an approved ECSEL project, and bottom-up referring to the application for Lighthouse Initiatives and actual project submissions by consortia, as well as to the implementation of the Lighthouse Initiative as an activity.
Why Lighthouse Initiatives?
The goal of Lighthouse Initiatives is to focus part of the ECSEL JU activities on achieving concrete socio-economic objectives along an agreed approach, while addressing problems of fragmentation of resources. Lighthouse Initiatives should improve and accelerate the impact of relevant projects by engaging all needed actors in the supply/value chain to achieve these goals, and connecting investment in R&I in ECSEL JU to investments done, for example, in relevant areas of other instruments such as HORIZON 2020 or EUREKA. Through this it can feed back and give recommendations to R&I investments in ECSEL that are in accordance with other policy measures such as standardisation, deployment or regulatory measures.
What Lighthouse Initiatives are there so far?
To date, the ECSEL JU has established the following Lighthouse Initiatives:
- Industry4.E (centred on the ECSEL project Productive4.0)
- Mobility.E (centred on the ECSEL project AUTODRIVE)
- Health.E (centred on the ECSEL project POSITION-II)
- Industry4.E pulls together the necessary work that is core to the ‘digitalisation of industry’.
To keep production industries competitive, more and more IT- and ECS-driven know-how is needed, based on platforms, standards and appropriate certifications for safety. Present day fragmentation stands in the way of reaping the full benefits offered by digitalisation: Industry4.E will address these issues.
Mobility.E focusses attention on the considerable technological, legislative and infrastructure difficulties facing large-scale deployment of safe, electrically powered, intelligent vehicles: the goal being to deploy a zero-emission/zero-accident mobility system accessible by all.
Health.E will stimulate the development of open technology platforms and standards for medical devices and systems, thereby moving away from the inflexible and costly point solutions that presently dominate electronic medical device manufacturing.
You can learn more about the ECSEL JU Lighthouse Initiatives via their website at ecsel.eu/lighthouse-initiatives.
The Health.E Lighthouse
According to the website dedicated to the Health.E Lighthouse: ‘To enable affordable healthcare in an aging society, healthcare is moving from centralised symptomatic treatment towards preventive, predictive and participatory care. Researchers in academia and industry are developing technologies and systems that will keep people healthy longer and allow patients to remain independent as long as possible in their own home environment.
‘E-health will provide solutions for a wide range of health-related societal challenges. It will keep track of a person’s health or the response to medicines by continuous monitoring with smart body patches, which will reduce the need for hospitalisation. Miniaturised smart catheters and laparoscopic instruments will further facilitate key-hole surgery. Implantable neuromodulation devices will control specific organs, avoiding the side-effects of conventional medication. Organs-on-chips are combining the latest developments in stem cell research with micro-fluidic devices for the development of new precision medicines. Finally, the data collected with these systems and other diagnostic equipment will be used to create digital representations of persons that can be used to predict in-silico the effectiveness of medicines and therapies.’
‘Moore for medical’
Health.E will, ECSEL states, stimulate the development of open technology platforms and standards for medical devices and systems, thereby moving away from the inflexible and costly point solutions that presently dominate electronic medical device manufacturing. ‘Open technology platforms, supported by roadmaps, will generate the production volumes needed for sustained technology development, resulting in new and better solutions in the healthcare domain. In this way Health.E will accelerate innovation along the whole medical instrument supply chain.’
The Health.E lighthouse was established together with the granting of the POSITION project, the ambition of which is to enable innovation in smart catheters and implants by the introduction of open technology platforms for: miniaturisation, in-tip AD conversion, wireless communication, MEMS transducer technology and encapsulation. These platforms are open to multiple users and for multiple applications.
Expanding on this, the website for the project states: ‘In POSITION a pilot line for the realisation of the next generation of smart catheters and implants will be established. In this pilot line scalable open technology platforms based on essential technologies contributed by many European companies will be integrated in one manufacturing network. POSITION will enable the electronic industry to take the lead in the development of these live saving instruments.’
According to the website, the next generation smart catheters and implants developed in POSITION will:
- Streamline the work-flow in the cath lab, resulting in a more intuitive work environment for the surgeon, resulting in less errors and a more efficient workflow;
- Bring digitisation at the tip to reduce wires and thus assembly cost and pave the way towards standardisation and wireless connectivity to ‘unclutter’ the cath lab;
- Enable a better diagnosis by using state of the art sensors and (ultra-sound) MEMS devices, and signal processing directly at the tip of the instrument;
- Use open platform technologies accessible to multiple end-users that are steered by roadmaps enabling end-users to focus on their applications.
It is hoped that the POSITRON project will ‘enhance the competitiveness of Europe in the rapidly emerging field of minimal invasive surgery. It will enable the further development of the European R&D and manufacturing capability in an extremely innovative industrial segment with a high economic importance, not only encompassing the micro-fabricated device itself, but also the various value chains that they enable. Finally, by bringing smart catheters into the domain of high volume manufacturing, POSITION will improve the quality of health-care at manageable cost.’