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Ireland-UK, EIT Health Ireland-UK

‘Conversations with our Network’ series – NUI Galway

13th January 2022

As our Ireland-UK hub launches the ‘Conversations with our Network’ series we were delighted to interview Natalie Walsh over at the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUI Galway) to kick off the series with a great start to 2022!

Ireland is counted as one of the top five global medtech hubs, with nine of the world’s top ten medtech companies having a base in here. Galway, located in the West of Ireland, is home to eight of these companies, placing it the heart of an innovation ecosystem.

Central to driving this success is BioInnovate, NUI Galway’s Fellowship programme. BioInnovate educates the next generation of healthcare visionaries and entrepreneurs, guiding the launch of several medtech start-ups off the ground each year.

NUI Galway has been a valued partner of the EIT Health Ireland-UK hub since 2016 and several BioInnovate start-ups have benefitted from taking part in EIT Health programmes, such as Tympany Medical, Proverum, and AVeta Medical to name but a few.

We sat down with Natalie earlier this month to learn more about her role as Director of Entrepreneurial Development at NUI Galway and hear from her perspective how the different facets of the partnership with EIT Health works.

Tell us more about NUI Galway and your role there.

NUI Galway is recognised as a global leader in the Medical Devices field and has a wealth of experience in clinical trials, innovation and device development. 

I have been with NUI Galway for over 14 years now, and in the role of Director of Entrepreneurial Development since 2020, driving the entrepreneurial training and education strategy.

Why did NUIG become a partner of EIT Health Ireland-UK?

We became an EIT Health partner to enhance our network, and optimize capacity building and innovation outputs spanning these areas. So far being part of the EIT Health network has contributed to us developing new areas of interest in health innovation and entrepreneurship. 

We have connected with partners from prestigious institutes and companies across Europe. This has been hugely supported by EIT Health and its many community building and partner matchmaking events and activities. 

As we look to 2022 and beyond we very much see our relationship with EIT Health continuing to grow and develop with a common goal of improving the quality of life and contributing to the sustainability of healthcare across Europe and beyond.

What types of programmes has NUI Galway ran in conjunction with EIT Health?

i-Days is an EIT Health initiative aimed at promoting health innovation among university students through dozens of one-day and two-day challenge-based programmes held in academic institutions around Europe. 

In October, IdeasLab hosted a series of workshops with over 80 students (both undergraduate and postgraduate) registering. The student teams took their ideas through a Design Thinking process and developed a solution to tackle real-life health challenges.

The winning idea called CardioPredict was developed by Talha Iqbal (School of Medicine). Talha’s technology went on to represent NUI Galway at the Winners’ Event, a final competition that unites students from around Europe.

The i-Days programme provides a friendly environment for students to progress their ideas, develop new skills and engage with networks both within NUI Galway and throughout the EIT Health consortium.

How does the partnership with EIT Health work for an academic institution such as NUI Galway?

The architecture of the different engagement models and funding sources of EIT Health aligns with the different stakeholder groups within NUI Galway. For some, engagement will be through the education pillar which aligns with our students and early-stage researchers to develop their entrepreneurial mind-set and skills.

For others, at a more advanced stage, their needs will be different. It could be funding, taking part in an EIT Bootcamp, finding a key opinion leader to join their advisory, or seeking out a partner from the network and working together to create a solution for a complex unmet need.

Since joining the EIT Health network, have NUI Galway staff and learners experienced any benefits?

The size of EIT Health’s network is unmatched and the expertise available has been a catalyst for many of our students, learners, and innovators to grow, develop and launch their businesses.

I would strongly recommend EIT Health as a partner for other academic institutions to consider. They have strong local supports in addition to those that span Europe, and therefore understand the context and needs of Ireland and how best to support Ireland into Europe and vice versa.

EIT Health’s network of partners and alumni is significant across Europe and beyond and they create a bridge to many other opportunities in Europe that are of benefit as we look towards a healthier and more sustainable Europe.

To find out more about NUI Galway programmes for entrepreneurs, researchers, and learners visit: http://www.nuigalway.ie/ideaslab/

To learn about EIT Health partnership options please contact clc.ireland-uk@eithealth.eu

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