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Neelie Kroes

Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda

European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing: acting together to tackle barriers and let innovation fly

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing – Stakeholders' Conference

Brussels, 26 November 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are here today to develop together the pilot innovation partnership on active and healthy ageing. Our aim is to increase the quality of life.

Why this European Innovation Partnership?

We need to find better ways to value elderly people. Accelerating innovations which help our elderly to live more independent, active and healthier lives is obviously a great step towards that!

The benefits will spread far beyond the current elderly generation. From the jobs this innovation creates, to the way it forces us to re-think the way we design health and social care systems: I think this partnership can be the prompt for many great improvements in the quality of life.

I have seen this dynamic in action in other health and care-related fields. In Germany, employers, employees and insurance companies promote healthy eating to reduce insurance premiums. In Utrecht, the children's hospital has been redesigned around the patients. They aren't sent around different parts of the hospital like parcels – the people are in fact at the centre of the policy. That is how it should be, and it is, in fact, cheaper. What is the link to today? The link is that by working in partnership and thinking outside the box, we can develop win-win situations for all parties.

The power and potential of ICT

The Digital Agenda for Europe recognises the huge potential of ICT in this area. Digital technologies are the greatest driver for innovation in health. In those parts of Europe where telecare has become a common practice, for example, clear evidence tells us that the use of ICT is indeed win-win. ICT improves care efficiency, frees up hospital beds, and users love it. I saw this in Odense, Denmark, watching physiotherapy techniques taught to patients via video, and a chronically ill patient living independently facilitated by ICT.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was in San Francisco. In a park elderly people were practising Tai-Chi. Thinking of Odense; I thought "why not Tai-Chi via telecare too?" Tai Chi helps in fall prevention and connects elderly people all over the world. More than that, this little anecdote reminded me that even an ancient art such as Tai Chi has an ICT application. There are very few aspects of health and health spending that we can't improve with ICT!

What is holding us back and what is the way forward?

So why is success limited today? Why do we have a "market of pilots" instead of a string of global successes? Structural barriers are the answer. In particular, health funding systems do not yet reflect new technological and demographic realities. Research is too fragmented. We have regulation we do not need, and standard-setting is slow. So I want to see concrete ideas emerge from the discussions today and in the coming months; ideas to help us remove these structural barriers.

  • Where can we make better use of pre-commercial procurement to create market pull?

  • Who can create scalable business models that give investors and governments more confidence in this field?

  • What immediate steps do we need to take on standardisation and interoperability?

  • How do we improve communication between demand and supply for eHealth services?

By joining up, my hope is that we can bridge the gaps that make active and healthy ageing harder to achieve.

The Commission will not interfere by ranking problems or prioritising solutions. Instead we simply want to give you to the tools to reach your own bold conclusions. Tell us what works and what doesn't. Feel free to be confrontational.

This will be a movement carried by all of you. So please spend today thinking about where you can jointly best add value. Tell us about your concrete proposals for projects. Ask us to hook you up with the right partners. And carry your enthusiasm throughout the life of the partnership

Commissioners John Dalli, Maire Geoghegan-Quinn and I are working very closely together to make this partnership work. We want to ensure a common vision and a coherent approach to achieve our joint objectives. I hope you can have equally close and productive partnerships; linking providers and recipients of care, bringing together suppliers with practitioners and users, including insurers and healthcare funding agencies

If we value our elderly then we must value this partnership. This is our historical opportunity to confront our demographic destiny, to build a new industry and to secure quality of life for our elderly; and make our healthcare systems more sustainable. Let's not waste a minute or a euro as we set about that task.

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