Universities lead growth in healthcare innovation

Universities lead growth in healthcare innovation

By Jan Petter Myklebust, 17 June 2016, University World News.

A conference on health innovation in Norway and a new advanced master of science programme in business administration and healthcare innovation developed by Copenhagen Business School and the faculty of health at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark are two signs of growing interest in research into health innovation and advanced degree courses composed of health sciences and business studies in Nordic countries.

A broad consortium of organisations working within the health sector in Norway has participated in an investigation on the role of the health industry and research for Norwegian society, identifying bottlenecks against further growth and internationalisation.

New calculations that the investment in health research and innovation is much higher than previously reported by the government show that it amounts to more than the total research and development spend in all Norwegian industries except for oil.

The calculations by Menon Economics, based on tax incentive data from SkatteFUNN, the Norwegian incentive fund for companies investing in research, development and innovation, reveal that the private sector investment in health research and innovation is at least NOK2.5 billion (US$300 million), not the NOK1.5 billion (US$180 million) attributed to private funding of health research by the Norwegian Research Barometer.

This is a significant share of a total Norwegian research investment of NOK9 billion (US$1 billion) for health research.

Private sector research in health is predominantly carried out in universities, except where it concerns clinical medical research, but even then the patent may be developed at a university.

Menon Economics said NOK2.5 billion is “more than the total research and development invested in all Norwegian industries except for oil. In particular in the pharmaceutical industries there is a large component of research, accounting for 8% of total income.”

At a conference in Oslo recently, head of the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise, Kristin Skogen Lund, said: “The health industry is a central answer to the need for change of the Norwegian economy. With an extremely high research contribution and a great export part, the health industry has an enormous potential.”

Menon Economics said: “There are numerous challenges facing the Norwegian welfare state. Many expect that challenges such as an ageing population and diseases like cancer and dementia will prove ever larger in the coming decades, especially seen in the light of the economic conditions over the last few years.”

It said the private health industry can provide a double opportunity for Norway: “While income from several other large industries in Norway is declining, the private health industry might expand, based on a growing global market, to become one of the largest industries in Norway. At the same time, the health industry may become the answer to many health and care challenges in the coming decades.”

Professor Ole Petter Ottersen, rector of the University of Oslo, who participated in the conference, wrote in his blog that there is an enormous untapped potential for the health industry based on research and innovation in Norway.

“The challenge is now that innovations based on research shall be transferred into a growing industry,” he said.

“The Menon figures bode well for the future and these figures demonstrate that Norway has advanced more than we dared hope for.”

He said the report demonstrates that approved Norwegian patents have doubled over the past two decades and that the number of start-up companies is increasing every year. Most of these start-up companies are “born global”, Ottersen said.

“At the University of Oslo,” he added “we are now in collaboration with several other institutions, creating a health innovation school where students and doctoral candidates in medicine [and other health sciences] are connected to companies to learn about innovation and entrepreneurship.”

The reception of the Menon report confirms a growing trend in Nordic countries of looking at further strengthening health research with increased international participation.


Healthcare industry in Denmark

Jyllands-Posten, a major Danish newspaper, reported on 8 June that “the health industry is a pillar of Danish [economic] growth”, stating that it is exporting products worth more than DKK100 billion (US$15.2 billion) each year, equal to 12% of total Danish exports.

“The health industry is a research intensive area and so the quality of Danish research facilities, international relations and a high investment level is needed,” Jyllands-Posten commented.

At a conference on personalised medicine arranged by the European Commission in Brussels recently, Peter Høngaard Andersen, one of the top players in the Danish pharmaceutical industry and adjunct professor at Copenhagen Business School and CEO of Innovation Fund Denmark, announced that a ground-breaking masters degree in healthcare innovation with the faculty of health at the University of Copenhagen will be offered from this autumn.

The programme is aimed at public healthcare professionals and industry and at generating a wider understanding of health care systems in the world.

“The Copenhagen MSc IHC is the world’s first full two-year masters programme offered in healthcare innovation. Other leading universities are also beginning to offer courses or concentrations in this new field,” Andersen said.

Finn Valentin, a professor at Copenhagen Business School, said although Denmark has one of the best healthcare systems, it faces the challenges of an ageing population and lifestyle related diseases.

“A wave of innovations is required to tackle these challenges, and in turn that will require a new breed of health care innovators. The new MSc is designed to produced exactly those skills.”

As Professor Regina Herzlinger of the Harvard Business School, says in a current YouTube video, there is a growing awareness worldwide of the need for innovation in the healthcare sector, due to an ageing population, increasing lifestyle illnesses and soaring costs in health services that are killing welfare economies and putting the quality of services provided under pressure.

She said two years ago there were only one or two universities teaching healthcare innovation and now there are more than 11 institutions that either have degree programmes in healthcare innovation or teach very intensive effective classes in the subject.

Eugene Schneller, professor in the WP Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, or ASU, in the US, said: “This is an exciting time to be teaching the next generation of managers of the healthcare sector. Health systems across the world are seeking to achieve value for money and they understand an innovation focus is key to being able to do that.”

He said ASU recognises that innovation and innovation management are key to being able to achieve these goals and has organised its curriculum for graduate students to be able to learn “all the aspects of innovation including the business aspects, the engineering aspects as well as the nursing aspects”.

Their ‘Approaches to innovating in healthcare technology’ course brings together students in the WP Carey School of Business, the college of nursing and innovation and the engineering school to “innovate, engineer and design and bring to market those products”.

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