The European Commission honoured 74 EU regions for their commitment to invest over €4 billion in innovative digital services for older persons, today, at the European Reference Sites awards ceremony in Brussels.

Günther H. Oettinger, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, awarded star-prizes to 73 European cities and regions, and 1 federal state, the German federal government at the European Reference Sites awards ceremony, held in Brussels today as part of the European Summit on Digital Innovation for Active and Healthy Ageing (5-8 December). These 74'Reference Sites of the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing' (EIP on AHA), represent inspirational ecosystems, consisting of industry, academia and government authorities, are being rewarded for delivering innovative digital solutions, to improve the lives and health of older people. 

The maximum of four stars were awarded to Andalusia, Basque Country, Catalonia, Healthy Ageing Network Northern Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Southern Denmark and Wales. Another 23 Reference Sites received 3 stars, 25 received 2 stars and 8 received 1 star. (see full details in this list)

The Reference Sites awards celebrate the commitment of these European regions to invest over €4 billion in connected healthcare for the elderly population until 2019 – an investment expecting to benefit 5 million people across Europe. They also symbolise Europe’s dedication to bringing Digital Single Market in active and healthy ageing (AHA). The record number of 74 Reference Sites, in comparison to 32 in 2013, is a testament to the European commitment to developing, adopting and scaling-up digital innovation for the ageing European society.

Commissioner Günther H. Oettinger said: "I am delighted to award the 2016 Reference Sites prizes to the 74 regional and local leaders. They are recognised for having pioneered innovative digital services and their committed to continue investing in digital innovation as a way to provide better health and care to their ageing populations, more efficient health and care systems, and generate new economic opportunities for innovative companies."

Blueprint for improving health and care through digital innovation

At the summit, Commissioner Oettinger also received the European Blueprint on Digital Transformation of health and care. This document reflects a "shared vision" from stakeholders coming from civil society, industry and policy to enable better health and care through digital innovation, and contains a roadmap of concrete actions for the next three years.

The Commissioner noted: "Digitisation of health and care is already happening; still, further opportunities await to be explored in Europe and beyond. Going digital for better health and care services is also a component of Europe’s Digital Single Market (DSM). Ongoing actions, such as the Digital European Industry strategy, can further ensure that digitisation of health and care leads to real change."

President of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) Markku Markkula said: "I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to the 74 award-winning reference sites of the European Innovation Partnerships on Active and Healthy Ageing. I am especially proud of the CoR members who are playing a crucial role here. These sites represent a sum of more than € 4 billion targeted at health, quality of life and innovative solutions for Europe's ageing populations. They are right to invest in their future, especially in view of the demographic changes sweeping across all of Europe's regions and cities. More broadly, we welcome the Innovation Partnerships on Active and Healthy Ageing and Digital Innovation as important steps towards developing future solutions to societal challenges in Europe. A Europe built on innovative, pioneering regions is a Europe of the future so I call on these pioneers to inspire others to join us in creating a more sustainable future, for and with our citizens."

The 2016 European Summit on Digital Innovation for Active and Healthy Ageing (5-8 December) aims at mobilising stakeholders and policymakers to work together on the basis of this "shared vision" and scale up innovation in active and healthy ageing (AHA) through age-friendly ICT solutions, such as smart homes, social robotics and integrated digital healthcare and social services.  

Background info

On 'European Reference Sites' and 'European Reference Sites Awards'

The 'Reference Site' status is granted to regional alliances –government authorities, industry and start-ups, research organisations and civil society– for their remarkable efforts in developing, adopting and scaling up innovative practices for Active & Healthy Ageing, in line with the strategic objectives of the European Innovation Partnership on Active & Healthy Ageing (EIP on AHA), and particularly the European Scaling Up Strategy for Innovation in Active and Healthy Ageing.

The European Innovation Partnership on Active & Healthy Ageing (EIP on AHA) is a pilot scheme aiming at increasing Europeans' average healthy lifespan by 2 years by 2020.

Every 3 years EU regional organisations investing in pioneering digital health and care can apply for the Reference Sites awards. They need to demonstrate the tangible societal and economic success of their investments, and their strategy for active engagement in scaling up and replicating digitisation processes in the health and care sectors.

On the European Summit on Digital Innovation for Active and Healthy Ageing

The European Summit on Digital Innovation for Active and Healthy Ageing is organised by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG CONNECT), in collaboration with the European Parliament and the European Committee of the Regions.  For the second time in its history, it brings together over 1500 representatives of a wide range of stakeholders, such as industry/start-ups, research, civil society and local/regional authorities.

This year’s Summit aims to explore the Digital Single Market’s transformative potential across different sectors; develop joint actions, and ultimately maximise the benefits of digital innovation for Europe's ageing society.

In addition to discussing the Blueprint on Digital Transformation of health and care, the Summit focuses on identifying growth areas to scale up digital innovation for active and healthy ageing.

Finally, the Summit raises awareness on the Active Ageing Index (AAI) platform launched in 2012 by the European Commission and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.

On the Blueprint: Digital transformation of health and care

In December 2015 at the 4th Conference of Partners of the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing (EIP on AHA), Commissioner Oettinger outlined how digital innovation, enabled by a functioning Digital Single Market, can transform demographic change into an opportunity for Europe's economy and society. He invited all stakeholders to work together with the European Commission in the development of a Blueprint, a 'shared vision' on how to mobilise investment and guarantee the commitment of all actors to this digital transformation of health and care for the ageing society.