Wild Card: Become a game-changer

The programme pairs early-stage start-ups with the resources they need to validate their problem-solution, achieve product-market fit, and secure investment opportunities.

Each year, the Wild Card programme invites start-up teams who are not afraid to take risks to develop an innovative solution for a specific health challenge. Fostering a supportive and collaborative environment, Wild Card encourages participants to think outside the box and challenge conventional thinking. With the guidance and support of experts and investors, teams have the opportunity to take on the challenge and bring innovative products and services to the healthcare industry.

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The 2023 Challenge: Children's Health

Investing in children’s health is crucial for building a better future, yet they often receive suboptimal healthcare solutions compared to adults. In fact, from 2003 to 2017, only 24% of FDA-approved Class III life-saving devices were designed for paediatric use.

Together with Sant Joan de Deu Hospital (SJD) Barcelona Children’s Hospital and its innovation hub i4KIDS, our Wild Card programme seeks to accelerate children-centric innovations that make real impact in children’s lives.

After consulting with key opinion leaders and a group of children and teenagers who act as a Scientific Council in SJD, Wild Card will particularly focus on innovations that address challenges in early life, chronic conditions and rare diseases, and acute disease management.

Join us in making a difference for our future generations.

How Wild Card works

Meet our lecturers

You will learn from experts in the field of business and pediatrics as well as from successful entrepreneurs, investors and clinicians.

  • Navigating the pediatric innovation journey towards a successful business

    John Collins, CIMIT

    John M. Collins, Ph.D. is Director at CIMIT a consortium based at Mass General Hospital in Boston and one of the oldest and most impactful healthcare innovation accelerators in the world.

    Before joining CIMIT, John was president of TIAX LLC, a 200-person technology transformation company. During his tenure, the World Economic Forum recognized TIAX as a Technology Pioneer in 2002 and as a New Champion in 2007. Before that, he was Senior Vice President at Arthur D Little, where he ran its Asia Pacific management consulting practice and later managed its 250-person Technology and Innovation business based in Cambridge, MA.

    John holds a PhD in mechanical engineering from MIT, with a focus on bio-fluids, mass, and heat transfer.

    LinkedIn Read More
  • Challenges and opportunities for innovation in Children's Health

    Arnau Valls, SJD Barcelona Children's Hospital

    Arnau Valls works as a project manager and R&D engineer at Hospital Sant Joan de Déu, leading national and European projects in the field of digital technologies applied to health. He is co-founder and technical manager of the 3D Planning Unit and a member of the coordinating team of the Pedriatic Innovation Hub I4Kids.

    Arnau Valls is a BSc, MSc, and Telecommunications Engineer from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia. He holds a postgraduate degree in AI and Big Data for Life Sciences from the Autonomous University of Barcelona. He was a fellow in Health Innovation and Entrepreneurship from d·Health Barcelona, affiliated to the Stanford University Biodesign programme. Specialised in the development of technological R&D projects in healthcare.

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  • Challenges and opportunities for innovation in children's health

    Xavier Puñet, SJD Barcelona Children's Hospital

    Xavier Puñet has a PhD in Biomedical Engineering and more than 8 years of experience in healthcare innovation. He is currently Innovation Business Developer at the Hospital Sant Joan de Déu, where he supports the valorisation and transfer of paediatric innovations and manages open innovation projects with external partners. He is also the promoter of the i4KIDS Paediatric Innovation Network, a European network that aims to dynamise the different actors of the paediatric ecosystem in order to build opportunities, fill gaps and bring paediatric innovations to the market.

    Read More
  • Executing a successful strategy for early-stage medical device companies

    Heather Underwood, EvoEndo

    Dr. Heather Underwood, former CEO of EvoEndo, is a medical device and health technology entrepreneur with a highly interdisciplinary background at the intersection of computer science, global health, human-centred design, education, and international development.

    Heather was a 2018-2019 Stanford Biodesign Fellow and worked on a range of medical device concepts across maternal and child health, allergy testing, and ophthalmology. Prior to the Biodesign postdoc at Stanford, she completed her Ph.D. at the University of Colorado Boulder's ATLAS programme where she developed and implemented clinical decision support systems for midwives and nurses in Kenya, receiving the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Grant and a Gates Grand Challenges Grant to support her research.

    Heather received a Bachelor of Science, cum laude, in computer science and engineering from the University of Washington, where her undergraduate research focused on developing multiplayer educational game platforms for primary schools in India.

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  • For children's by design, not by adaptation

    Oriol Ventura, Universitat de Barcelona

    PhD in design. Industrial designer. and co-founder of Ovicuo Design.

    His area of knowledge focuses on the field of design for health, well-being and work spaces. Professor and Researcher at the University of Barcelona. He has participated in several research projects for the SJD hospital and others. The products designed, as a result of these investigations, have received international recognition such as the RED Dot design Award or the German Design Awards.

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  • Innovation with young people ________________________________________

    Begonya Nafria, SJD Barcelona Children's Hospital

    Patient Engagement in Research Coordinator at Sant Joan de Déu Chidren’s Hospital. She has long experience in the field of the involvement of patients and families in research initiatives. She is currently a PhD student in patient involvement in the paediatrics field, specifically working on the rights of the patients accessing to cross-border access clinical trials.

    Funder and member of the Steering Committee of European Young Patients Advisory Group Network, Coordinator of Kids Barcelona of Sant Joan de Déu Children’s Hospital, Co-Chair of Children’s Medicines Working Party of EFPGCP and Chair of the Cross-Border Access to Clinical Trials working group of European Network of Paediatric Research of EMA.

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  • My experience in creating an start-up in Children's Health

    Christof Goetz, Brainhero

    Entrepreneur and Project Manager with more than 25 years of experience in managing complex and innovative IT projects. Christof founded Brainhero back in 2018 to support his daughter with autism and to help her to become more independent in life. Brainhero has achieved all required certifications to bring a medical device as a therapy home to affected children and offers its services since the end of 2022.

    Christof was born in Germany, studied computer science and business administration in Mannheim and graduated from the Open University with an MBA. His work life began at a technology Startup in Germany during the Dot.com area, following working as a consultant for various companies including IBM Germany and the UK. He moved to Vienna in 2004 where he started his first own business and was involved in various startups.

    Besides his work Christof enjoys running, cooking and traveling with his family. He is married with two children.

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  • Towards a harmonised digital health landscape across Europe

    Fruzsina Mezei, EIT Health France

    Fruzsina Mezei MSc graduated from Durham University as a Medical Anthropologist and received her master’s degree in Health Policy, Planning and Financing from Eötvös Lóránd University. She started her career at the National Public Health Centre of Hungary (NNK) as Health Policy Advisor planning and implementing evidence-based developments in the field of primary care.

    Her current focus is health economics and health technology assessment of digital health innovations and pioneering medical technologies. At EIT Health, she is coordinating the European Taskforce for Harmonised Evaluation of Digital Medical Devices (DMDs) – a pan-European effort to facilitate the accessibility of DMDs through harmonising the major elements of a digital-health-specific HTA framework across EU Member States. In 2022, she has been elected a presidential board member of the Hungarian Health Economics Society and implemented good practices of international digital health regulations in the Hungarian setting.

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  • Effective management of chronic diseases in children

    Luisa Martinez, SJD Barcelona Children's Hospital

    Currently, Ms. Martinez is Pre-award Manager for Health and Innovation projects at FSJD as well as specialist in the area of innovative public procurement and Value Health Care. Graduated in Politics in 2003 at the University of Durham, UK. She has over 15 years of experience in project management and international development in the consultancy sector, as well as in the field of SME development. She is mother to a son with a rare chronic disease and was, till last year, the Vice-President of the Life with Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia Association.

    LinkedIn Read More
  • Effective management of chronic diseases in children

    Martí Pons-Odena, SJD Barcelona Children's Hospital

    Dr Pons’s clinical interests include respiratory care in critical care. Active areas of research include mechanical ventilation, mainly focused on noninvasive ventilation (NIV). He has published more than 70 studies in indexed journals (H-index 17). In 2015 launched the third edition of the book “NIV in Pediatrics”
    Dr Pons is a member of the Respiratory working group of Spanish PICU society and ESPNIC since their very beginning. He has been actively involved in both groups participating in research and leading educational projects like the Non-invasive ventilation ESPNIC courses. Nowadays, as the former Chair of the Respiratory Section of ESPNIC is promoting the development of an international research network called RespNIC.

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  • Innovative technologies to improve infant health outcomes

    Ana Alarcón, SJD Barcelona Children's Hospital

    Ana Alarcon is a neonatologist at Hospital San Joan De Deu, Barcelona where she has a special dedication to Neonatal Neurology and also an Associate Professor at the University of Barcelona. Her main areas of research are “The Impact of Infections on the developing brain” and “Perinatal Brain Injury”.

    Ana Alarcon previously worked at Oxford University Hospital and continues to be academically linked to this institution through collaboration on a project on computerised analysis of intrapartum electronic fetal monitoring. Since 2022, she is Vice-President of the European Society for Pediatric Research.

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  • Fetal, chronic and rare-disease, management ____________

    Joan Sánchez de Toledo, San Joan de Deu

    Joan Sanchez-de-Toledo is a Pediatric Intensivist and Cardiologist dedicated to the care of children suffering from severe cardiac conditions. He is the director of the Heart Institute at Hospital Sant Joan de Déu and a staff Cardiac Intensivist at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. He is an Associate Professor of Paediatrics at Universitat de Barcelona and an Assistant Professor of Critical Care Medicine at University of Pittsburgh. He leads a multidisciplinary research group iCare 4Kids_SJD Research Institute that aims to improve outcomes on patients suffering from cardiac conditions.

    He promotes a patient-centered, clinically driven, transversal and multidisciplinary research model from fetus to adulthood. His research portfolio contributes to deciphering the unknown mechanisms of brain injury in infants with Congenital Heart Disease during the perioperative period of heart surgery. He uses highly advanced experimental models, disruptive neuromonitoring systems and artificial intelligence to translate results from the bench to the bedside to improve patient outcomes.

    Read More
  • What are investors looking for? _________________________

    Laia Pascual, Ship2BVentures

    Laia Pascual holds a PhD in Tumor Immunology from LMU University and an Executive MBA from IESE Business School. She has first-hand experience as an entrepreneur leading a Biotech company and has helped several life-science companies accelerate their growth and define their fundraising strategy as part of EIT Health, a European-wide accelerator.

    In 2022, Laia joined Ship2B Ventures, an early-stage Impact Venture Capital fund that supports ambitious entrepreneurs in their quest to improve the quality of life of vulnerable individuals.

    LinkedIn Read More

Who should apply

Wild Card is open to teams of entrepreneurs, start-ups or SMEs that:

  • Address an unmet need for children’s health
  • Have a TRL 3-6
  • Have a team of two-tofive founders, of whom at least two should participate in the programme
  • Are incorporated by 1 June 2023 in a Horizon Europe country
  • For more information on eligibility requirements, download the call document

Financial obligation

If within three years from programme graduation you succeed to secure funding, we will ask for a 3% success fee of your company’s financing round or exit. The success fee is capped and applicable to the first €2M euros of your company’s financing round or exit.

Info session

Take a look into the programme’s info session, where Wild Card’s programme managers present the programme into more detail and answer live questions.

Watch info session here

Ready to apply?

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Meet the Wild Card team

Our partners

Meet the Wild Cards

Discover previous Wild Card start-ups and be inspired by their founders’ journeys.

  • NaturaLens

    2021 Participant

    A comfortable extended wear natural contact lens for managing myopia in dry eye patients.

    There is an urgent need for novel cost-effective and non-invasive approaches for management of myopia and dry eye to avoid visual impairment and blindness. Our solution, a bioengineered natural contact lens (NaturaLens), can help address this underserved need.

    Team NaturaLens is developing a Natural Contact Lens made from the same material as the human eye that can help manage myopia in dry eye patients.

    "The EIT-Health Wild Card helped us better understand the need, examine our assumptions towards developing a solution for addressing a major underserved need in eye and vision care."

    Read More
  • PeriVision

    2021 Participant

    A portable and AI-based perimetry device for 70% faster, patientfriendly and much more cost-efficient glaucoma patient monitor.

    PeriVision wants to reimagine glaucoma monitoring to benefit patients and doctors alike by offering a portable and Al-based perimetry device for 70% faster, patient-friendly and much more cost-efficient glaucoma patient monitoring.

    “The trend towards democratized and decentralized access as well as telehealth solutions is already well under way. We want to shape this future in glaucoma care. In this context, the Wild Card program helped us to understand who benefits most from our solution and how we build a sustainable business around that.”

    Visit PeriVision's website Read More
  • Orbit Health

    2020 Participant

    A device-agnostic Digital Therapeutic (DTx) to enable personalized treatment of Parkinson’s Disease.

    Orbit has developed Neptune, a device-agnostic Al solution regulating treatment dosage for Parkinson's disease patients, restoring patient function and quality of life. Neptune offers to patients up to 5 extra symptom-free hours per day. 

    “Our solution equips clinicians with reliable, continuous, and objective symptom insights that are easy to access to effectively personalise treatments for each patient. Wild Card accelerated our understanding of how our solution fits in the market”

    Visit Orbit's website Read More
  • MiMARK

    2020 Participant

    Endometrial cancer diagnosis – easy, quick, accurate and less costly diagnostic kit.

    MiMARK sets to provide in vitro diagnostic tool based on the determination of 5 protein biomarkers in uterine fluid samples to provide a diagnosis to 100% of patients, to rule out endometrial cancer with great specificity, and provide information on a histological subtype of the tumour to guide surgical treatment.

    "With our solution, we will change the standard of care for endometrial cancer by providing innovation in diagnostic technology at an early stage and without the need for invasive and uncomfortable procedures. The Wild Card programme has been fundamental in accelerating our development."

    Visit MiMARK's website Read More
  • Abtrace

    2019 Participant

    Abtrace is using artificial intelligence to tackle AMR- perhaps the greatest global health threat of our time.

    Every use of an antibiotic comes with a risk that resistance might develop. Abtrace is using artificial intelligence to tackle AMR perhaps the greatest global health threat of our time.

    “The process is tough and thorough but, in the end, the Wild Card programme gives you the freedom to really challenge the boundaries of what is considered possible today. It’s an exciting opportunity that brought together an extraordinary team of mentors who are brilliant, very experienced and really enthusiastic.”

    Visit Abtrace's website Read More
  • Smart4Diagnostics

    2019 Participant

    Digital blood samples – changing medical diagnostics from a trust-based system into an accurate, evidence-based system.

    Digital innovations are taking diagnostics from a trust-based system into an accurate, evidence-based system. Smart4Diagnostics closes the data gap between blood collection and lab analysis.

    “The future of healthcare is in essence a data driven future. The question is, who is producing the data? Who is owning the data? And in the end, who is interpreting the data? [Smart4Diagnostics] wouldn’t have been started in this successful manner without the help of EIT Health.”

    View Smart4Diagnostics website Read More
  • iLof

    2018 Participant

    Harnessing bio-photonics and Artificial Intelligence to unlock new possibilities in Alzheimer’s drug discovery.

    iLoF is creating a pathway which promotes breakthroughs in Alzheimer's disease research. iLoF (short for Intelligent Lab on a Fiber) it is using machine-learning to develop an non-invasive way of screening patients for clinical trials, which will accelerate the development of new and personalised Alzheimer’s treatments and make them more economically viable.

    “We all know the social tragedy behind Alzheimer’s – but the industry problem behind that is less visible. The [Wild Card] programme allowed us to study a whole industry at a deeper level and understand that in order to solve Alzheimer’s and enable a treatment, we first need precise, personalised, inexpensive tools that all stakeholders can apply. And because of that, suddenly, iLoF was born.”

    Visit iLof's website Read More

    2018 Participant

    Revealing the risk of post-operative cognitive complications in the over-60s. Developing a powerful app that personalises pre and post-op patient care.

    Disorientation, memory loss and speech difficulties are some of the symptoms of postoperative cognitive complications in the over-60s. PIPRA, short for Pre- interventional Preventative Risk Assessment, is developing a risk score in-app intervention for pre- and post-operative patients.

    “I think we got fantastic support and guidance from people that have so many years of experience. You gain a lot, it is tremendous and pretty unique.”

    Visit PIPRA's website Read More

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