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InnoStars

European start-ups and SMEs will test their AI and robotics solutions in real health environments

1st March 2024

The TEF (Testing and Experimentation Facility) programme planned for five areas – healthcare, industry, agri-food, energy and smart cities – aims to streamline the certification and testing of artificial intelligence and robotics solutions in real-world environments. The Portugal-led health consortium just launched the first call for applications dedicated to the founders from the European healthcare sector. This initiative is underscored by an ambitious goal to test 100 pilot solutions by the year 2025, reflecting Portugal’s commitment to driving innovation and progress in healthcare.

  • By 2050, Europe’s elderly population will surge, with those aged 80 or older surpassing 48 million. Leveraging AI and robotics becomes essential to meet these challenges, enabling remote patient monitoring and early intervention.
  • Overall, the Testing and Experimentation Facility (TEF) programme is set to deploy and evaluate 500 innovative pilot projects in AI and robotics within the healthcare sector over the over the 5-year span of the EU consortium.

Open call to EU start-ups and SMEs developing AI and robotics technology

Despite their potential, AI innovations face obstacles like risks and lack of trust, requiring rigorous testing and infrastructure for market acceleration. TEF Health aims to streamline the certification and testing of AI and robotics solutions in real-world environments. The first TEF Health call is open to start-ups and SMEs developing AI and robotics technology from different EU countries.

The consortium is spearheaded by Institute Pedro Nunes. It has the participation of Centro Hospitalar Universitário de Coimbra (CHUC), Centro Hospitalar de São João in Porto, Shared Services of the Ministry of Health, Health Cluster Portugal and EIT Health InnoStars – one of the eight geographical areas of EIT Health, part of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union. At the European level, the project includes a consortium of 52 entities from 10 countries, led by the Charité University Hospital in Berlin (Germany).

The primary objective of this project is to facilitate the development and market entry of trustworthy AI/robotic solutions. One key aspect of this collaboration is establishing a network of practical testing facilities. These facilities encompass physical infrastructure, data resources, computational capabilities, living labs, and laboratory testing facilities, offering healthcare innovators the opportunity to conduct extensive tests and experiments within large-scale, realistic environments”, explains Ricardo Pires, coordinating the project on behalf of EIT Health InnoStars.

The TEFs are an initiative of the European Commission with the aim of streamlining the certification and testing of artificial intelligence and robotics solutions. The intention is for these large-scale experimentation centres to offer physical and virtual facilities, where startups and SMEs can get support to test, validate and demonstrate their latest AI-based technologies in real-world environments. The real environments will be hospitals and research and development labs in healthcare.

In addition to helping to increase the effectiveness, resilience and sustainability of health systems in the EU, TEF-Health also aims to reduce inequalities in healthcare delivery and ensure compliance with legal, ethical, quality and interoperability standards.

The application process involves several phases, including eligibility assessment, evaluation, and approval to gain access to the Portuguese TEF-Health services catalogue. Interested startups and SMEs can apply by visiting https://tefhealth.eu/call/call-1 and following the application process outlined in the call document. Selected startups and SMEs from EU member states will receive state aid support in the form of discounts on the market price of validation services.

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