Ireland-UK, EIT Health Ireland-UK

‘Conversations with our Network’ – BioInnovate Ireland

31st January 2023

To kick off the first 2023 instalment of the ‘Conversations with our Network’ series, we spoke with Sinead Walsh, Director of Operations at the prestigious BioInnovate Fellowship Programme, a valued partner of EIT Health.

Currently open for 2023/24 applicants, BioInnovate is a ten-month programme whereby participants identify needs-led approaches to health innovation, led out of the University of Galway. Sinead explained to us what participants can expect, and why the Stanford BioDesign model was a good fit for Ireland’s west coast.


Where did the idea for BioInnovate come from?

The BioInnovate Fellowship is a specialist medical device and digital health innovation programme. BioInnovate Ireland is the first global affiliate and the only European affiliate of Stanford BioDesign. The programme was established in 2011 after an Irish delegation, led by the late Ian Quinn, sought to bring BioDesign to Ireland to embed the MedTech industry here and support a thriving innovation start-up community in the region. The programme is co-funded by Enterprise Ireland.

Over the last eleven years, BioInnovate has become recognised as a global centre for medical technology innovation, using a ‘Needs-Led Innovation’ approach to create novel healthcare solutions to unmet healthcare problems.  

Why was there a need to establish this programme in Europe?

BioInnovate is ideally located at University of Galway, on Ireland’s west coast, which is home to one of the world’s largest medical device hubs.  Each year we welcome participants from all over the world to the programme. Diverse expertise and viewpoints are crucial to drive innovation. Equally, it is important that the healthcare needs identified and addressed by participants during the programme are global healthcare needs that affect citizens across Europe.  

What type of people typically get accepted to the fellowship?

The BioInnovate Ireland programme attracts ambitious, forward-thinking professionals with backgrounds in academic, clinical, or industry settings. They must have a willingness to collaborate with a view to enhancing the future of healthcare, and ultimately improve millions of patients’ lives worldwide.

What happens on the programme?

After we intake new participants each year, they are grouped into multidisciplinary teams. Teams are made up of individuals with Clinical, Technical or Engineering, and Commercial backgrounds and experience. Their combined knowledge brings together the key expertise required to match an unmet healthcare need with a viable business opportunity. They shadow doctors in healthcare settings, identifying recurring challenges with a view to formulating solutions to address these. Many go on found their own start-ups after the programme, to develop their solutions further.

As healthcare solutions are becoming more digitally enabled and connected, we are particularly interested in recruiting experts in digital health to the programme for the coming year. 

Any examples of success to date from BioInnovate alumni you’d like to share?

BioInnovate prides itself on the significant impact the program and its fellows are having on the healthcare sector globally. We have helped to develop the newest generation of forward thinking healthcare entrepreneurs and influencers. To date, BioInnovate has left a significant footprint on the MedTech sector, both indigenously and globally, with 130 fellows, 30 start-ups, of which 19 are designated High Potential Start-Ups by Enterprise Ireland, and more than €230 million raised in public and private funding.

Just two examples of innovative healthcare solutions coming from the programme are:

Tympany Medical, led by CEO Dr Elizabeth McLoughlin and her Co-Founder Rory O’Callaghan who both met during BioInnovate, is developing cutting-edge endoscope products for ENT (ear, nose and throat) surgeries. Their first device will allow patients with hearing loss requiring surgery to have minimally invasive surgery to improve their hearing. The Co-Founders have diverse experience in anaesthesia & critical care medicine, and in design. 

FeelTect, also founded during BioInnovate, has developed Tight Alright, a connected health platform for monitoring compression therapy. Tight Alright is a wearable device with multiple pressure sensors that wirelessly connects with a digital platform. Tight Alright can reduce healing times, and facilitate self-managed treatment, both which help reduce overall costs incurred to the patient, and the provider.

Why has BioInnovate partnered with EIT Health?

There is great synergy between BioInnovate and EIT Health. We share a common goal of promoting innovation and collaboration in health and solving Europe’s biggest healthcare challenges. BioInnovate is a training programme that trains the next generation of MedTech and Digital Health entrepreneurs, who are enhancing the future of healthcare and improving the lives of patients worldwide. 

Interested in working alongside the brightest minds in health innovation to find solutions to Europe’s greatest healthcare challenges? Applications are now open to join BioInnovate 2023/24. Apply early to this highly competitive programme located in one of the world’s most vibrant MedTech clusters.

To find out more information on how your organisation can become a partner of EIT Health and join Europe’s largest health innovation network, like BioInnovate, contact our team today.

New report reveals skills gaps impeding healthtech innovation

New report reveals skills gaps impeding healthtech innovation

A must-read for healthcare start-ups and venture capitalists

Find out more

Matakia wins EIT Health Digital Innovation Award

Matakia wins EIT Health Digital Innovation Award

Learn about the winning team

Find out more

Perspectives on the HealthTech ecosystem

Perspectives on the HealthTech ecosystem

Key takeaways from the conference 2024

Find out more