The infamous Dragon's Den workshop at the 16th European Health Forum Gastein (EHFG) was this year won by a team of Young Gasteiners proposing a project to print human hearts.

The team's pitch highlighted the shortage of organs in the EU and the risks associated with organ rejection, and proposed an ambitious project to utilise stem-cell research and advances in 3D printing technology, to allow patients to print their own replacement hearts.

The group of young health policy experts and researchers impressed the panel with their informative and concise four-minute pitch and ended their presentation by calling on the judges and the politicians of Europe to "Have a Heart".

Other project ideas

Other projects pitched included: a Health Savings Account offering incentives to those adopting healthier lifestyles in terms of the funding of their healthcare; an iManage self-care system for diabetes; a real-time European-wide database of patient health records; a smartphone app and discrete body sensor for measuring blood pressure for use by hypertension patients and their healthcare professionals, so that the risks  of early stage heart disease can be diagnosed and conditions self-managed in conjunction with patients´ GPs; and finally a Smart Health Card which is an enhancement of the current European Health Insurance Card, containing a patient´s medical history and integrating a chip and pin function.

The Dragon's Den workshop, named after the popular BBC series, is one of the most anticipated items on the EHFG agenda.

Innovative solutions for 2030

This year, preparations started at the beginning of September when a group of Young Gasteiners met in Brussels at the DG Connect headquarters where they were invited to present innovative solutions to the problems that might face Europe’s health systems in the year 2030.

As an outcome, six innovative ideas emerged, and the 2013 Young Gastein cohort of scholars started shaping their ideas from that moment until the final pitch in front of the judges: A panel of 'Dragons', composed of high-level European health actors.

This year's Dragons were: MEP Antonyia Parvanova, VP of the ALDE Group of the European Parliament; Dr Marc Sprenger, Director of the ECDC; Professor Helmut Brand, President of the International Health Forum Gastein; Professor Martin McKee, Professor of European Public Health, LSHTM; and Monika Kosinska, Secretary General of the EPHA.

"Clear added-value"

Following the session, Monika Kosinska praised the time and effort invested by the Young Gasteiners and the quality of the pitches delivered. "Each year we see higher quality presentations and more inventive ideas – making the final decision is never easy. This year's winning proposal had clear added-value and feasibility, making use of technology that is developing further and further every day."

Authors: Young Gasteiners Ellie Brooks and Sofia de Figueiredo Ribeiro