After reading Jane Wakefield's article on "The Generation that Technology Forgot" one thing became very clear to me. Factoring-in the specific needs of the ageing population across every-day technology is a social necessity and a global success-imperative for most consumer products and services.
So how can we make sure that innovative technology is age-friendly by design? We've already gathered some great examples from the "Design for Ageing" sessions held at the European Summit on Innovation for Active and Healthy Ageing in March. Earlier this month I attended another great eHealth Week in Riga where the eHealth SME competition rewarded some exceptional entrepreneurs and their innovative eHealth solutions for being "user-centric" and relentlessly driven by market demand.
For sure, there's a lot of good-practice out there – for eHealth, mHealth, active ageing and many other products. What is lacking is systematic widespread uptake and scaling markets.
That's why I was eager to attend a European Commission Conference on Innovative Financing for Active and Healthy Ageing last Wednesday. Some of my take-aways: Investors really want to understand real market demand before they invest in new technology. They need evidence that an emerging technology actually fixes a problem and meets the needs of ageing people, their family or carers. Entrepreneurs, start-ups and SMEs are looking for ways to go beyond the Venture capital and Angel investors phase. Investment for growth and scaling up is what they need.
At the meeting we also discussed some of the ongoing work on the Silver Economy Strategy and related activities of the European Commission. A recurring comment was that early involvement of users / buyers / investors is closely related to go-to-market success.
No wonder there was much interest in a collaborative approach to developing an "Innovation to Market"-Accelerator to support our Silver Economy Strategy. It will comprise a range of EU initiatives like Horizon 2020 Societal Challenge 1, Active and Assisted Living Programme and the Alliance for the Internet of Things Innovation. It will also bring in (at an early stage) innovative technology solutions "one-step closer" to users' needs, private investors and buyer's demand (e.g. regional health and care authorities and tech industry). Discussions in the accelerator will start at the Active and Assisted Living Programme (AAL Programme) Forum 2015 in Ghent (Belgium) on 22-25 September.
To reward and showcase successful market uptake, we will launch the 2016 European Silver Economy Award, to put a spotlight on innovation and excellence in products and services that really make a difference to people's everyday lives.
Yet even more important for sustainable success is the lasting participation from all stakeholders in the complex, fascinating and fast growing silver economy-area. One post-event tweet read: "Had a great session today looking at scalability, options + funding. Thanks to @EIP_AHA @SilverEcoEU got loads out of the day." And some minutes later: "You know when you come away from an event with a host of things you want to do now? That happened today"