Blekinge launches Health & Sports Technology Initiative with international approach and expertise
In order to tackle the enormous public health challenge surrounding lifestyle diseases and an aging population, and at the same time creating the conditions for regional innovation and growth in health and sports technology, a regional long-term investment is started. The initiative will coordinate ideas, skills, and resources in a complete ecosystem. In addition, linked to collaborations within Sweden, the Nordic countries, Europe and also the rest of the world.
There is tremendous potential for innovation and growth in this area. Globally, health and sports technology is a large market with a great economic growth in Europe, and even higher in the rest of the world. In Europe, major financial investments are made for start-ups, and the sector is expected to turn over SEK 300 billion within five years. Sweden is significantly smaller in absolute terms, but due to high scientific knowledge and good spirit of innovation, it is still often top-5 in the European ranking.
This is a collaboration between i.a. Region Blekinge, BTH, RF SISU Blekinge, Blekinge Business Incubator, Blue Science Park and NetPort Science Park, as well as the international partner Silicon Valley Exercise Analytics.
Mikael Mattsson is recruited as project manager and champion of the initiative. He holds a doctorate in Medical Science – Sports Physiology from Karolinska Institutet and researches at Stanford University in California. In addition, he has worked with elite athletes for more than two decades and in recent years has worked actively with technology and analysis development in sports and health technology.
“There is incredible strength in investing in both health and sports technology in one and the same platform, which is unique to this initiative. I think this will be a very important success factor for the Health and Sports Technology Initiative as this is something that is lacking in Sweden today. ” says Stina Lundgren Högbom, PhD, Director of Sports Technology & Innovation Svexa.
“The project will serve as a cutting edge to link our leading research and education initiatives from technology and health to the benefit of public health and sport!” tells the research leaders Professor Johan Sanmartin Berglund (Applied Health Technology) and Professor Tobias Larsson (Product Development)
Health & Sport Technology Initiative is a collaboration from idea/needs to ready Products and services in Health and sports
The project collaborates regionally with several different functions such as Blue Science Park, NetPort Science Park, Blekinge Business Incubator, the Armed Forces and RF SISU Blekinge. The project will collaborate with both national and international networks and innovation stakeholders in both health and sports technology.
The realization of the sustainability goals in Agenda 2030 requires a comprehensive social change both nationally and globally. Within Goal 3 Good health and well-being, non-infectious so-called lifestyle diseases are a huge societal challenge. Today, half of all adults in Sweden live with obesity or obesity and, according to the Public Health Authority, obesity and obesity are also increasing among children (more than every fifth 6-9 year-old live today with obesity or obesity). Unhealthy eating habits and insufficient physical activity contribute to physical and mental health, which also causes costs for society as well as for the individual. Obesity alone is estimated to cost society approximately SEK 70 billion per year. At the same time, we live in Sweden and the western world for longer and the number of people over 65 will triple over the next few decades. it also poses a major societal challenge, as fewer and more employed persons will support and care for a growing group of elderly people, where the number of people with dementia will increase. Blekinge faces major challenges when it comes to turning the growth curve upwards.
The Nordic Council of Ministers recently published a report on Nordic regions, where Blekinge had fallen most in the ranking known as the Regional Potential Index (down 11 places to 62 out of 66). At about the same time, the Sydsvenska Chamber of Industry and Commerce published a report stating that companies’ research and development (R&D) expenditures have fallen sharply in Blekinge during the years 2007-2017 R&D man-years down from 1023 to 229 and R&D as a share of the gross regional product ( BRP) down from 2.7% to 0.8%. In the interface between a significant societal challenge linked to health and well-being and a clear need for regional growth, there are technical and business opportunities in the field of health and sports technology where BTH with partners can play a particularly important role. Given that Blekinge’s current industrial structure is mainly focused on productivity growth, it is important to create new growth areas, ie areas where there is potential for both existing and new companies to create new products and services that, in addition to productivity growth, also lead to employment growth. With a well-functioning ecosystem, there is the potential to attract external companies to establish themselves in the region and to export products and services in a global market.
Gerontechnics is an interdisciplinary field that combines gerontology (the doctrine of normal aging) and technology. Our opportunities to create a sustainable society in the future depend to a great extent on the extent to which we can create various forms of technical solutions that can provide opportunities for independence and participation based on individual needs, desires and abilities. It is about finding solutions for good health care, good care and opportunities for a rich leisure that provides an improved quality of life for our growing aging population.
In sports, there is today a great and growing need to be able to apply various technical aids. This can be anything from different monitoring support for training development to material development. Globally, sports technology is a large market with an economic growth of about 20% per year in Europe and even higher in the rest of the world. In Europe, SEK 5 billion was exceeded in investments for start-ups, and the sector is expected to turn over more than SEK 300 billion within five years. Sweden is significantly smaller in absolute terms, but due to high scientific knowledge and good spirit of innovation, it is still often top-5 in the European ranking. By collaborating between different needs owners such as special sports associations, national sports associations and regional sports associations and with both the national and regional business community, the project aims to develop both products and services that develop sports and the conditions for physical activity through technological innovations.
What the project’s activities should lead to for the target group in the short term
Some of the activities we have planned will be implemented in the form of various workshops and lectures. Business workshops where we want to increase our knowledge of how we can work together to increase innovation between need owners, academia and business. By describing the workflow and how business restructuring can create products and services for improved quality of life and better health for both young and old, business capacity to produce both products and services for sport and health increases. The project aims to increase knowledge about the impact of technological innovations in sports and health, both for existing business and for the public. By raising awareness, we create an interest where the gaze steer towards our region. By using existing technology (with a declining investment cost) for broader needs groups, groups that previously could not use the technology’s possibilities can now access it. Being able to gain health or performance insights via AI / machine learning and smart watch is a benefit for the target group. These insights can also be injury prevention for example contact athletes (measuring acceleration forces) or prevention (fall sensor for risk groups). Collaboration between different institutions at BTH also creates new knowledge that the project will utilize through various workshops for collaborating parties, thereby creating better insight and increased knowledge about various technical aids for sport and health, products and services that facilitate sports practice and for a healthier lives and that have an impact both regionally, nationally but also internationally.
What effects will the project achieve in the long term?
Our vision is that the project will produce both knowledge, products and services that enrich both the regional business community and the regional population but where national and international collaborations have led to external companies establishing themselves in our region and where the project has collaboration with several different partners such as different accelerators and other universities. In short, a smart specialization in which BTH’s current profile areas are linked together to create a new, attractive profile area together with external players who see the same potential market in the future. The project also wants to create increased knowledge about health care and is welcomed at the group and individual levels both for young people and also for our growing aging population. In sports technology, the project aims to create a platform that is nationally leading in the development of technical products and services.
By leading the national development of technological innovation, opportunities are created for new collaborations with the development of technical products to meet several major societal challenges and the high priority area of health care that can counter several societal challenges such as increased sedentary and one of our age’s major disease of obesity. By developing the region’s geographical location with water-based wellness and the development of wellness that is large in the region and which attracts a large number of people such as swimrun, sailing, canoeing and diving, the regional tourism industry can also be attracted. In health technology, we see a great opportunity to reach an international market through the development of products and services for geriatrics and gerontechnics. Meeting the need for our growing proportion of older people is a major societal challenge. In this area, we see with our infrastructure and knowledge to develop both products and services to create quality of life for our elderly population.