Interview with Françoise J Siepel, Coordinator of DIH-HERO project

We interviewed Françoise J Siepel, coordinator of DIH-HERO project. Digital Innovation Hub Healthcare Robotics started as an European Commission funded project in 2019 and is an independent platform which connects Digital Innovation Hubs across Europe and offers a sustaining network for all those who are active in the healthcare robotics sector. With the objective of accelerating innovation in robotics for healthcare, DIH-HERO established an online portal offering multiple services facilitating collaboration on various innovations, emphasizing the sharing of best practice and enhancing the delivery of innovation throughout the value chain.

The Innovation Action project that you have been coordinating has come/is coming to an end. What has been your experience with the DIH-HERO project so far? What impact have you created for your DIHs and the industry?

Actually, DIH-HERO continues its activities related to the network, also in the future. Over the past couple of years, it has been confirmed that there is the need for such a network to organize a smooth collaboration within healthcare robotics ecosystem as the transfer of technology to clinical environments is challenging. One example for connecting the value chain stakeholders successfully are the 32 full new deployment tracks that have been performed under DIH-HERO deployment call. Around 60 innovation projects have been boosted two TRL levels higher on the short-term, through dedicated Innovation Coaching offered by DIH-HERO and has facilitated 450 new cross-border activities among other activities that have created a high impact in healthcare robotics across Europe.

What was the most challenging while supporting the SME projects? How did you overcome it?

The situation during the pandemic also entailed multiple unforeseen challenges for the SMEs and slightly larger companies in the execution of the several activities in the project. We, as DIH-HERO network, are active in 23 countries and could give each other as well as the players in the field complementary support to continue all activities.

Is there a project or result that you are particularly proud of? Could you share a success story with us whereby one of your beneficiaries has made significant progress in their robotics innovation goals thanks to the work of your network?

The activities and fast action of DIH-HERO during covid-19 has definitely been a success story, also being recognized by the EC, awarding extra funding to DIH-HERO for the deployment of innovative robotic solutions in the healthcare setting. Our connection to clinical institutions is strong, which was to the benefit of our third parties. In addition, we are very proud of the SMEs and slightly larger companies connected to the network, how they coped with the entire situation, and also managed to finalize their individual innovation projects given the circumstances.

What are your plans, talking about the sustainability of your network?

We will continue our activities and efforts in the years to come and strengthen our services and will continuously extend and adapt the one-stop shop platform for healthcare robotics to the needs of the field.

What services will you continue to offer to your members as a DIH network?

Technology, business related services, especially services covering all needs along the robotics in healthcare innovation chain including diagnostics, intervention, rehabilitation and support.

How can potential clients access your services?

Via our specialized and dedicated portal which has been developed over the past 6 years for the healthcare robotics field, which is accessible via the DIH-HERO.

If your network is open for new members, how can our target audience sign up to become a member of your network?

Please follow the updates on our website to continue to be involved or contact the coordinator via dih-healthcare@utwente.nl. 

How do you think that being a member of your network is going to impact the performance of your DIH members? What added value is it going to bring to their operations?

Being part of the DIH-HERO network grants the opportunity for the DIHs to gain further insights and being continuously updated concerning the latest developments on European level related to robotics in healthcare. In addition, we have experienced that the network and collaborating cross-border is very valuable also for the DIHs, in regard to continuous knowledge exchange and learning, as well as creating connections.

Finally, what message or advice would you like to share with our participants here to motivate them to continue growing and advancing this network collectively?

DIH-HERO is the place to be if you are active in healthcare robotics in Europe. Also in future DIH-HERO remains to be the connector of all the stakeholders in the field enabling the fast transition from European perspective into regional activities per country and vice versa. 

If you would like to be part of the DIH-HERO network, make sure to register as an individual or organisation in the DIH-HERO person or organisation catalogue.

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