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Commissioner Mariya Gabriel brings the European innovation model to Silicon Valley

Commissioner Mariya Gabriel brings the European innovation model to Silicon Valley

By: Samira G-Curtis & Aida Khalilova

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Between the 3rd and the 5th October 2022, Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, visited Silicon Valley to shed light on the new European Innovation Agenda, Europe’s flagship initiative to scale up its deep-tech innovation ecosystems in rapidly evolving fields, from food, to energy, to raw materials.

The visit, articulated in a series of engaging and thought-provoking dialogues, increased understanding among entrepreneurs, investors, corporations, and venture capitalists regarding the unique outlook of the European innovation model.

Throughout her engagements, Commissioner Gabriel challenged innovators to do more than just create the next app, cryptocurrency, or SaaS social network. She challenged Silicon Valley to be not just a technology leader and money-making machine, but also to participate in building hope and ambition for a better future, by harnessing innovation to bring about radical change.

Supporting the Commissioner throughout her visit, EIT Hub Silicon Valley provided assistance, guidance, and insight, supporting the EU team in key introductions and opportunities.

Consequent to this visit, Europe continues to invest and strengthen its relationships with the California tech ecosystem through its marquee investment in EIT Hub Silicon Valley, set to further reinforce the bridge between Silicon Valley and the European innovation community.

The new European Innovation Agenda: deep tech as a key instrument of societal change

In the aftermath of the pandemic, and with somber perspectives of a financial recession to come, all coupled with Russia’s war in Ukraine and global geopolitical unrest, there is a dire need for hope and the aspiration to a better future.

The new European Innovation Agenda has an ambitious goal: fostering deep tech innovation as a key lever of radical change, so that new technologies can address our most pressing societal challenges, from climate change to supply chain security. The agenda is articulated in five key pillars:

  • Improving access to finance for deep tech start-ups and scale-ups;
  • Helping innovators experiment with new ideas through dedicated regulatory tools and public procurement;
  • Creating “regional innovation valleys” that will strengthen and better connect innovation players through Europe, including in regions lagging behind;
  • Attracting and retaining deep tech talents, alongside increasing support for women innovators;
  • Improving policy making tools and providing policy support to European countries.

These pillars represent a public-private partnership that aims to place Europe at the forefront of active environmental stewardship and inclusive technology solutions. Commissioner Gabriel, in support of this agenda, has focused on pursuing key goals in empowerment for women, sustainability, and a human-centric approach toward policy and investment.

In particular, Commissioner Gabriel has been a longtime advocate for women in digital and in entrepreneurship to be better represented and recognized. She has taken part in campaigns such as No Women No Panel, which raises awareness on having gender balance in panels and public events, and she has spearheaded EU-wide programs for women in deep tech such as Women TechEU.

In fact, the case for supporting more start-ups led by women is not only a matter of inclusivity, but increasingly a business one. Studies have shown that tech companies built or run by women are more capital efficient, with higher revenues, and more likely to survive.

The European Union is now increasingly taking the lead in this purpose-driven approach to technology. It now hopes to further collaborate with global innovation hubs (such as California, from its outpost at the EIT Hub Silicon Valley) to mainstream this unique blend of thoughtful public policy, impact-driven venture capital, courageous funders and social-minded corporations.

Bringing the European approach to innovation to Silicon Valley

During her time in California, Commissioner Gabriel presented these pillars and the EU approach to innovation to critical audiences.

Addressing startups, corporations, investors and venture capitalists, the Commissioner highlighted the double need for increased funding for deep tech scaleups, on the one hand, and for appropriate policy tools, such as regulatory sandboxes and public procurement, to enable deep tech innovation and experimentation, on the other.

Accelerating and strengthening innovation across Europe, by drawing on the strengths of local innovation hubs across the continent and connecting them a network of European Innovation Ecosystems, was the focus of a discussion between the Commissioner and European startups at the Plug and Play Tech Center.

Commissioner Gabriel also met with European students at Stanford University, which was the occasion to reaffirm the importance of personal motivation and commitment when it comes to working towards a more innovative future. Answering a question from one of the students on what made it possible for her to be successful and to achieve the level of leadership to which she had risen, Commissioner Gabriel said in no uncertain terms: “passion”.

Finally, key in her visit to Silicon Valley were also meetings and dialogues with corporations who are leading in deep tech innovation such as Virtual Reality (VR) technologies, including speaking to the new Chief Operation Office of Meta, Javier Olivan.

Throughout the 3-day visit, the EIT Hub Silicon Valley continued its mission to enhance European leadership and know-how in California, and establish itself as the main bridge between the European and American innovation ecosystems.

It was a great honor and pleasure for EIT and the Hub to support Commissioner Gabriel’s visit, and we want to thank her team and all the stakeholder who took part in our events for the great collaboration.

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Access to Healthcare

The Health not The Death is a fundamental human right. A healthy population is not to be seen as human and social capital, an input, or by-product, towards economic growth. Alongside a healthy and sustainable environment, a solidarity, a healthy population must be the ultimate goal especially nowadays in helping Ukrainian migrants with cancer and their families.

Solidarity in health is a cornerstone of EU health policy. There are wide disparities in many health outcomes across the region and those outcomes. The access rules dramatically affect healthcare systems which are at the forefront of the migrant way, the people who are searching for help and the way how we could enhance and support their healthier and wellbeing status.

In order to ensure their access to care and continued cure in need, the probability of receiving a timely diagnosis and of surviving differs greatly from country to country where they are now. There is lack of information, help and inequalities in access. People need help in navigating cancer knowledge, diagnostics, secondary monitoring and prevention, way of treatments, and care.

Shifting our mindset, supporting healthcare connectivity, removing inequalities overall across Europe is our mission and even more now in a time of crisis, helping the Ukrainian people dealing with cancer is a good place to begin this transformative revolution.

1) Whether we have a chance to foster more holistic and integrated approaches to receive information and care, by supporting coordination and maximising an enabling and health-enhancing effect of care across services from different countries?

2) Whether actions should address the social determinants of health, the countries where they are now, the health need which they have, the social and language barriers are the conditions which have to be taken into consideration in a coordinated manner?

How might we improve patients and /or people who seek healthcare support, access to healthcare services at an EU & the Member States Healthcare systems level? Especially in a time of crisis in Europe.

How might we support refugees fleeing from their countries by navigating them to medical centres to receive best available care?  

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Predictive Treatment

Precision medicine aims to personalise care for every individual. Nongenomic and genomic determinants, combined with information from patient symptoms, clinical history, and lifestyle (nutrition, physical activity, stress etc.), can facilitate personalised diagnosis and prognostics. Yet this goal requires access to massive amounts of data which may come from different structured and unstructured sources; these can be our medical records, laboratory testing, a range of medical devices as well as from the patient himself. AI & ML can combine input from these multiple sources, analyse them and identify biomarkers that can support health professionals make more informed decisions. The convergence of precision medicine with the advanced AI capabilities will improve the ability to personalise care – improve diagnosis, risk prediction as well as therapy planning.  

HCPs want to better predict treatment response, given uncertainty around which treatment to prescribe to which patient and when to prescribe. How do we risk assess the patients, match them with the right treatment (personalised). How can we transform the wealth of data and link it to the predictive nature of how the patient will respond?

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Patient Journey Navigation

Being diagnosed with cancer is overwhelming and comes as a blow. Patients may feel on a roller coaster of emotions—they are scared, lost & confused not knowing what to expect, who to refer to, what to do and how to tell their loved ones.  They directly refer to “Dr. Google” to look for information about their disease, possible treatments, QoL strategies with the aim to have better understanding of their disease and learn how to better cope with their disease & treatment, yet information is not always valid, accessible, nor personalised or tailored to the patient’s status and needs therefore left with huge amounts of non-relevant information. Coming to the doctor, the physician’s time is limited and mostly focusing on the physical aspects of the disease & treatment, not leaving much time to ask questions nor discuss more holistic aspects of the disease such as emotional, psychological, social aspects. The patient (& caregiver in many cases) leaves the room with unanswered questions, doesn’t remember much of what has been said, and feels he is not heard, nor seen as a whole.

The need for navigating this journey along the emotional psychological stress is overwhelming & patients and their caregivers look for support (case manager/companion/partner) to help manage their disease holistically – starting from having clarity around their disease and treatment by having access to reliable and personalised information during their journey as well as having an integrated holistic care system , supporting them and their loved ones to navigate through the different aspects of their disease – medical, emotional, logistical, psychological, social, rights.

How can we support patients to navigate through the complexity of their disease and treatment ensuring they have validated holistic information about their disease journey & treatment and be empowered to  effectively manage their care 

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Peer-to-Peer Medical Exchange

As medical events pivoted from conference centres and meeting rooms to the virtual settings, learning opportunities continue. Lectures and presentations are translated to the new digital world, yet the ability to connect and network is relatively lost. Peer interaction is essential not only for information exchange but to share practical insights, allows consultation & in-person experience cross country and across borders leading to better disease management.

This peer-based learning/ consultation is highly valued amongst practising clinicians and was generally achieved when HCPs and KOLs met their peers in national & Intl conferences, group debates, advisory boards and even during quick corridor conversations. Attempting to replicate these in-person experiences into the digital space creates challenges and are not effective nor impactful as face-to-face engagements. 

How might we improve HCP medical exchange enabling physicians to easily communicate, consult, exchange opinions leveraging individual experts & centres of excellence knowledge, experiences, and practices?

How can we leverage the technological expertise to allow HCPs to connect with leading experts across countries to get advice / counselling for their cases?

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