The aim of the Future Internet CHallenge eHealth (FICHe) accelerator has been to challenge European startups to develop innovative applications in the eHealth market building upon the FIWARE technology. In the recently ended two-year program, through three phases and altogether 6.24 MEUR funding, the 20 finalist startups, out of the initial 300+ applicants, developed their ideas into successful new eHealth solutions.
According to FICHe Project Coordinator Satu Väinämö, University of Oulu, Finland, FICHe has been a boost as it has accelerated the overall process, planning and fostering the visibility of the product and companies. The added value of FIWARE technology comes from providing a large set of components and an active community which supports and maintains it. The combination of funding, coaching and testing solutions with real end users accelerated the development of the SMEs’ solutions. As Jordina Arcal, from FICHe finalist HealthApp, Spain, puts it: “it was a real incubation process…everyone helping each other.”
By being part of the FICHe program SMEs and startups gained significant growth. With the support of FICHe, the 20 finalists created 150 new jobs, got new customers and partnerships as well as raised extra public and private funding. FICHe program itself has been essential seed funding allowing the startups to set off the ground.
FICHe finalist Netictech, Poland, developed a real-time audio-video communication solution for medical professionals. According to Piotr Pawlowski, Netictech, FICHe program was “the best thing to happen” for their company: they had the opportunity to transfer from research project to markets, and to receive funding, mentoring and acceleration.
The finalists valued the most the network expansion, support received from the mentors and feedback gathered from real users in living labs, besides of the funding. According to them, testing and validation in living labs is the first requirement that an e-Health startup should accomplish in order to get access to the international markets. Different coaching sessions, business webinars and events have also sharpened companies’ view on the business potential beyond the borders of their countries.
The FICHe project partners from Finland, the Netherlands and Spain consider the program as a remarkable opportunity. Myriam Martin from TICBioMed, Murcia, Spain, says FICHe has provided SMS (Servicio Murciano de Salud) a unique tool to boost innovation and competitiveness through piloting and testing the innovative solutions from seven FICHe companies in Murcia living lab. Martin sees that there are clear benefits of the use of innovation and testing labs as they support regional development of healthcare and social welfare. This in turn will increase the quality of healthcare and social welfare services, as well as make the services more affordable.