A Framework for Innovation in Healthcare


EIT Health supports healthcare innovators at all stages, from identifying important unmet needs, to navigating the Valley-of-Death, to rapidly scaling the delivery of innovative solutions that provide improved care. In our experience, innovation in healthcare is a learnable and teachable process which, unfortunately, many teams only learn by trying. This is very inefficient and can result in errors that derail even the most promising ideas. Luckily, we can now help teams navigate the innovation journey by building upon the rich experiences of previous healthcare innovators through a specialized framework, codified by our collaborator CIMIT, called the Healthcare Innovation Cycle.

The Healthcare Innovation Cycle Framework

The Healthcare Innovation Cycle framework provides a roadmap to guide teams through the complex journey of innovating in healthcare while also profiling progress. It is based on the well-established Technology Readiness Level (TRL) methodology, modified to reflect the unique challenges in healthcare innovation. It has 10 maturity levels between the steps from defining an unmet medical need to becoming a standard of care. It is augmented to reflect a critical element of innovation in healthcare that the clinical, regulatory, and market/business domains must mature along with the technology. Even the best technology will not improve patient care if the other three domains are not adequately completed.

The Healthcare Innovation Cycle framework captures the experience of prior innovators by defining a core set of deliverables a team should complete at the intersection of each maturity level and domain. In simple terms, it is a checklist that tracks the maturity of an innovation in the ten maturity levels and four domains. It also provides next steps and critical milestones to plan work.

While the 10-maturity levels and 4 domains remain the same for all types of innovations, the core set of required deliverables will differ by solution type. To date, EIT Health and CIMIT have collaborated to build-out the following solution types:

Benefits of the Framework

Experience has shown that using this framework has the following benefits. It:

  • De-risks and accelerates a project by helping teams look beyond the technology at other aspects vital to innovative solutions in healthcare (market/business, regulatory, clinical).
  • Enables mentors and experts outside the team to quickly understand the status of a project and identify key risks that need to be addressed.
  • Provides a framework that streamlines and improves the quality of reporting for teams and portfolio managers.
  • Provides a common framework and terminology which enhances efficiency in the innovation ecosystem – saving time and money.
  • Provides efficient “learning by doing it right” experience for innovators.

Who can use it?

  • Startups / Innovation projects – to use the best practices and experiences and “learn by doing it right”.
  • BAs / VCs / CVCs / FOs – to enhance the effectiveness of their expert input and track the progress of their portfolio companies in reaching the next key value-inflection milestones.
  • Acceleration and incubation programs – to make the most of the time available from their expert mentors in providing guidance and to assess the maturity of applicants and their progress.
  • RTOs / TTOs – to support innovators through the Valley of Death and prevent avoidable mistakes.

The team behind the framework

CIMIT (Consortia for Improving Medicine with Innovation & Technology) is a 20+ year-old consortium organization based at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston aimed at accelerating innovation and catalyzing the discovery, development, and implementation of innovative healthcare technologies. Over the last decade, is has expanded to include collaborators beyond Boston which share the mission to improve and support healthcare innovation. For more information visit: https://cimit.org/

EIT Health is a network of best-in-class health innovators approximately 280 member organisations and is supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union. We collaborate across borders to deliver new solutions that can enable European citizens to live longer, healthier lives. For more information visit: www.eithealth.eu