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Basel: Europe’s health innovation hub

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Located along the Rhine river in Northwest Switzerland, Basel is home to more than 700 life sciences companies, 1000 research groups and an emerging health tech sector.

The city’s thriving industry is supported by the Basel Area Business and Innovation agency which is dedicated to helping startups, institutions and companies find business success in Basel.

Lucas Scherdel is director of the agency’s DayOne accelerator: a digital health innovation platform building and growing digital health and med tech ventures in the area.

Scherdel’s healthcare career includes roles at the likes of the World Health Organization, the World Economic Forum and the NHS.

“More recently, I’ve become very interested in the potential of digital to transform the healthcare journey,” Scherdel tells Health Tech World.

“I’m now focusing on the potential of open innovation methods, especially startups and early ventures, to create completely new models for healthcare.”

Basel is the ideal location for startups looking to scale.

Many new companies will be either looking to do commercial business with a leading life science, healthcare or pharmaceutical company or will require investment from one in order to scale to their next milestone.

The whole value chain is represented in the Basel Area, from development and production to manufacturing, distribution and marketing.

“All of the executives are based here, too. So when we think about the healthcare business, it’s really a capital for all of those key competencies. It makes a lot of sense for companies to move here.”

One more reason for healthcare companies to consider the Basel Area is the DayOne Accelerator, Switzerland’s leading digital health and med tech accelerator and one of the biggest in Europe.

The accelerator is using Basel’s clout as a launchpad to support and grow 20 to 30 exciting new healthcare ventures each year.

This year, DayOne expanded its offering to support early stage companies in Switzerland with its new programme, Digital Health Nation.

The programme aims to transform the Swiss healthcare system and improve patients’ lives.

“We have a dedicated workstream on med tech, in particular in relation to the watchmaking industry in Switzerland and how we can use those technologies to create interesting opportunities in med tech.

“With our proposition on Health 4.0, we help companies create commercial ties with our leading life sciences industry that they wouldn’t be able to do or find elsewhere.”

This year’s cohort is working to create alternative treatments for chronic pain, potentially revolutionising how we manage pain.

Among them, Portugal-based Hope Care, whose HCAlert remote monitoring solution supports the delivery of secure and fast medical assistance;

Rescape Innovation from Wales, creators of the VR digital distraction therapy tool DR.VR which is already being used in the NHS;

and TrainPain from Israel which delivers neuroplasticity-based exercises to promote sensory nervous system health.

But just as important as the innovations themselves is getting healthcare systems to adopt them.

“Healthcare providers are usually interested in seeing how new technologies work. But often they’re too busy dealing with the immediate demand to adopt these new technologies.

“That’s one of the reasons why we work with hospitals and with patients to make sure that we’re understanding what it’s like for these solutions to actually be used in the healthcare setting.

“We don’t just develop things based on what the technology is driving. It’s about understanding what the hospital or the end user is looking for.”

In the years to come, Scherdel predicts that the Basel Area will become a hub for the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution, which will combine technology with traditional pharmaceutical and life sciences approaches to healthcare.

He notes that IBM is set to launch a new quantum computer in the area. Meanwhile, Basel is witnessing a proliferation of companies harnessing AI to assist in drug development.

“I think this is really the beginning of what the future of healthcare will look like, which is a technologically-enabled system that is much more effective, much more precise and enables us to put the patient at the centre of the healthcare journey again.

“We’re really excited to be anchored in the centre of that and to help drive this technological transformation.”

This is an excerpt from our Special Report – Global Health Tech Clusters

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