EIT - Health & The International Healthtech Revolution

A conversation with Kurt Höller & Joy Cürten


Digital Health - since my early childhood days in the 80s I have had three main areas of interest:

  • Information Technology

  • Health

  • Entrepreneurship & Investment

No wonder, that I thought a couple of years ago that the digital revolution will also disrupt the entire healthcare and pharmaceutical sector. Yet, while disruptive ideas have changed the world of entertainment and communication already from 1995 onwards with technology like iPod, iTunes, YouTube, or Facebook, I perceive an increase of game-changing shifts in the pharmaceutical and healthcare sector since 2010.

There are so many new areas that promote useful applications for the healthcare sector, although most of them are still early, they will be adopted over the coming years.

Buzzwords like:

  • Artificial Intelligence

  • Robotics

  • Telemedicine

  • 3D Printing

  • Wearable Technology or

  • Augmented and Virtual Reality

  • and many many more novel terms

dominate articles and presentations about the Global Healthtech Revolution.

In 2019 I was part of a panel discussion about early-stage investments in Europe. One of the early-stage deep tech investors at the panel pointed out:

“Up to now we were happy when we got a few hundred to a few thousand datapoints to evaluate the safety and efficacy of a drug. Now, Fitbit conducted a sleep study. They got 6 Billion datapoints for analyzing the sleep patterns of their customers. Just imagine, if drug developers could get access to 6 billion datapoints to better understand the development of diseases in the first place. The internet will disrupt also our industry.”

Such success stories motivated more and more investors and entrepreneurs to develop novel business models around promising technology with the potential to disrupt the entire industry.

Reason enough that new initiatives emerged in Europe dedicated to helping such companies to access the European market and evolve and adopted novel technology into useful applications for the population.

One of these initiatives is EIT Health that started in 2015.

EIT Health: A European initiative for your health

EIT Health is one of the largest healthcare initiatives worldwide. Its goal is to sustainably advance the foundations of healthcare and thus promote the future conditions for healthier living and the wellbeing of people across Europe. EIT Health is leveraging the expertise of 150 leading organizations spanning key areas of healthcare such as Pharma, MedTech, Payers, Research Institutions, and Universities. More than 1000 startups have benefitted from that strong network through specific Accelerator programs, raising 350+mio€ in 2020 alone. Chosen by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) to form EIT Health, the consortium offers best-in-class research capabilities, higher education, and business expertise. With an EU funding of around 1 billion EUR over 15 years, it will purposefully invest in Europe’s best entrepreneurial talents and creative minds to foster the development and commercialization of smart product and service solutions in the health sector, addressing the challenges imposed by demographic change and aging societies.

A truly European network for personal opportunities and regional growth

The regional structure of EIT Health extends across Europe. With its headquarters in Munich (Germany), EIT Health has established six co-location centers in London (UK/Ireland), Stockholm (Scandinavia), Barcelona (Spain), Paris (France), Mannheim and Heidelberg (Germany/Switzerland), and Rotterdam (Belgium/Netherlands). All six co-location centers are defined by the EU Innovation Scorecard as high innovation performers.

With the twin goals of leveraging diversity and driving the potential of emerging innovation clusters, EIT Health has added the “EIT Health InnoStars” to its network. These regional clusters consist of industry partners, academia, and health providers linked to seven regions in six countries – Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Italy, and Wales. These regions ideally complement the EIT Health co-locations centers while ensuring wider participation and outreach across Europe’s multifaceted innovation landscape.

Kurt Höller

Since December 2015, Kurt is Director of Business Creation at EIT Health, one of the largest healthcare initiatives worldwide with 150 leading organizations spanning key areas of healthcare such as Pharma, MedTech, Payers, Research Institutions, and Universities. Kurt is leading the EIT Health Accelerator has supported more than 1000 startups with close access to all leading players in the health industry. Within Innolife, the preparation consortium of EIT Health, Kurt was part of the Executive Committee as a spokesperson for all German academic partners.

From 2009 to 2015, Kurt has been the managing director of the Central Institute of Healthcare Engineering (ZIMT) at Friedrich-Alexander-University (FAU). Since then he has gone on to found and direct several other companies: CiNNAMED GmbH (2013, CEO and co-founder), Portabiles GmbH (2014, CFO and co-founder), and HOELLER ELECTRONIC GmbH (CEO in 2015). Since May 2015 he has been a member of the city council in Erlangen and a member of the supervisory board of ESTW AG, vice-chairman of the supervisory board since July 2020.

After attaining his Diploma of Electrical Engineering at Friedrich-Alexander-University (FAU) in 2005, he gained his Doctorate at FAU with research stays at TU Munich and Johns Hopkins University (JHU), USA. His research activities focused heavily on health innovation, with his thesis on “Novel Techniques for Spatial Orientation in Natural Orifice Translumenal Endoscopic Surgery (NOTES)” (book published in 2011). He also has published 30 journal articles, conference papers, and patents. Kurt went on to earn an MBA with a focus on Entrepreneurship at Deggendorf Institute of Technology (THD) with a research stay at Santa Clara University in the Silicon Valley.

Joy Cürten

Bringing Californian creativity into the European entrepreneur ecosystem. Currently working as an enabler, Joy jointly manages a 20+ program portfolio for the EIT Health Accelerator that has supported 300+ start-ups in the Medtech, biotech, and digital health space. After working in health prevention and health technology education, Joy understands the need for robust support systems. Entrepreneurship research and education must be reinvented along with the start-up founders.

This is at EIT Health which is building a network of clusters and incubators, industry, and corporates to offer entrepreneurs access to in Europe and internationally to: business model development tools, access to mentors, investor and angel circles.

Video to this Episode:


00:00 Opening Christian Soschner

04:19 Introduction Joy Cürten

08:47 Introduction Kurt Höller

15:08 How Much Funding is Needed to Start an Initiative Like EIT Health

16:12 The Early Days of EIT Health

19:31 How Does EIT Operate?

21:05 Initiatives at EIT Health

26:33 Classification of Healthtech Companies

32:53 How did the pandemic shape the health tech sector in Europe?

50:00 Cultural Differences Between Entrepreneurship in the US and Europe

58:40 Development of Open Innovation and Communication in Europe

01:08:00 How the Pandemic changed the European Landscape

01:15:00 What Policy Changes Would Help the European Healthtech Sector?

01.21:00 EIC, EIT, and EIF – How The Institutions Work Together with Corporate Investors and VCs

01:27:00 How is the Availability of Private Equity, Venture Capital, Angel Funding, and Corporate Investors in Europe?

01:37:00 How to Connect with EIT

Referenced in The Show:

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