In-depth interview with Jesús Valero Congil, Health Division Director of Tecnalia Research & Innovation and one of AgeingFit’s Steering Committee members.
In your opinion, as a healthy ageing expert, how do you see the sector’s evolution over the next ten years?
Ageing is one of the biggest trends humanity is facing. It will affect not only Europe, but has worldwide implications. In the next 40 years, the senior population (over 65 years old) will increase in Europe to nearly 30%.
For example, in densely populated countries such as India, the number of people over 60 years old will dramatically increase from 100 million to 300 million in 2050. The potential risks for health systems are huge, but so are the opportunities to develop new products in the area of healthy ageing. In Europe, for example, people over 65 years old will account for half of overall household spending and in addition, their main focus will be on health.
I see this sector as a rapidly evolving field, where fast adoption of new technologies will be one of the driving forces of change. Europe should take advantage of being the region with the highest percentage of seniors to position itself as the leading expert in healthy ageing and export its knowledge to other regions.
How could the senior healthcare system be structured at a European level in order to facilitate market access?
I think this can be summarized in a single word: Ecosystem. Healthy ageing is a multidimensional phenomenon and Europe’s leadership in this field will only be possible if we bring together all the stakeholders concerned, from patients to public authorities and industry. If I had to select a single action to be implemented to facilitate market access, I would choose public procurement as a key driver.
How do you think the path from innovation to market could be accelerated in this sector? What financial and organisational resources will be necessary to support this?
The implementation of tools to deal with both technological and commercialisation challenges is absolutely necessary. From a research centre’s perspective, it is difficult to attract funding for proof-of-concepts to develop prototypes from promising technologies. In parallel, most researchers lack the organizational resources to present, defend and organize these ideas from a commercial (non- scientific) perspective. From a start-up’s point of view, transforming a pre-industrial prototype into a market product can also be challenging, especially in emerging markets such as healthy ageing.
The AgeingFit business convention provides a unique exchange framework to facilitate collaborations and foster innovation between researchers, investors, buyers and users in the sector. What do you expect from this event?
AgeingFit was necessary. I consider Ageingfit as a tool to build the necessary ecosystem, integrating research and development, investment and product commercialization. By organizing conferences, an exhibition and a business convention, the participants will find all the ingredients to discuss new ideas and products in this field.