Innovating the Future of Healthcare in Ireland and the UK

Tangent, Trinity Ideas Workspace

17 July 2019

Good afternoon, everyone,

I hope you’ve been enjoying a really great day. I’m sorry that my schedule didn’t permit me to attend more and hear the keynotes and the Headstart pitches, but I’m glad to have this time with you now.

This is an event I particularly wanted to attend because innovation around healthcare is one of my personal research interests – previous to being elected Provost I was Professor of Bioengineering so I’ve great experience with the medical devices industry in Ireland and Europe.

I’m also on the governing board of the EIT, and have been since 2012. It’s been a privilege to be part of the ambitious team which has helped the EIT to start to deliver on its mission to achieve a step change in innovation in Europe – to build networks across the continent and so create a pan-European innovation ecosystem. 

The EIT thinks big – and it is having effect. The KICs are particularly flexible and successful. I’m delighted that Trinity is such an enthusiastic participant. As has probably already been mentioned today, Trinity participates in 29 EIT Health projects in total, of which 15 as Lead Partner. And we are active in all three programme areas or ‘pillars’ in EIT Health – innovation, campus and accelerator.

In Trinity we characterise our mission in education, research and innovation as interdependent: what we educate determines what we research and how we innovate, and what we research feeds back into how we educate. Like the EIT, we think the key to a dynamic economy and a high-performing third level sector is interaction between universities, research bodies, businesses, entrepreneurs, investors, government, employers and graduates.

To this end, we take a full and comprehensive view of our mission. We want staff and students to combine a deep understanding of their discipline with an awareness of how to use that understanding to engage with, and contribute to, our 21st century world.

That means encouraging students to develop their skills inside and outside the classroom in order to prepare them for global careers and engaged citizenship. And it means provide opportunities for students and staff to research and innovate – to apply their knowledge to real-life situations, to commercialise their research and extend their learning and experience by working and studying abroad and building global networks and partnerships.

In Trinity we believe all research and disciplines have the potential for innovation. Tangent, Trinity’s Ideas space, where we are now, is open to staff and students from all three faculties.

Europe has such huge potential. We are a wealthy, dynamic, innovative continent, a single market with high standards of human rights, consumer protections and equality legislation. Europe is high-performing. But by creating more collaborative pathways, we can bring about more innovation and creativity - encouraging business interactions across our borders to create jobs and open up opportunities.

In one of the first speeches I made as an EIT board member, back in 2013, in Vilnius, I said that a company in north Europe should be able to recruit easily from universities in southern Europe; and entrepreneurs in eastern Europe should be able to interest investors in west Europe.

The EIT’s mission is to make this happen. I believe all partners involved – governments, businesses, entrepreneurs, investors, universities, research bodies, employers, graduates – are committed to this mission because we understand the benefits, which are cultural and environmental, as well as economic.

I continue to hope and believe, that whatever happens with Brexit, the UK will remain the closest of partners. The EIT, Horizon2020, the European Research Area have benefitted hugely from UK membership. Something so important, with so many advantages and no downside, must be safeguarded.

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As everyone knows, a flourishing innovation ecosystem depends on having a pipeline of new companies, products and services constantly coming on stream. Early intervention to support start-ups is crucial, hence the importance of EIT Health’s aptly named Headstart programme.

You’ve been hearing pitches from Headstart teams all day.

And with the ‘Audience Award’ you’ve been given the chance to participate and make your choice. I’ve no doubt that deciding which of these teams impressed you most was difficult – I’ve had a look at the different entrants and the quality is so high – each has identified an important medical need and come up with an ingenious solution. Four of the 22 finalists are Trinity-linked. I’m particularly proud of them, of course, but I congratulate all the nominees. Collectively, they enhance EIT Health – their solutions are proof of the importance of having this means of furthering European innovation.

It’s my pleasure now to present the Audience Award to one of our Headstart teams.

And the winner is Starling Surgical. Team members: Cyrus Doctor & Travis Davis


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