''The innovations that are currently being worked on and will be developed further, are going to ensure that my generation will have a comfortable and happy life in old age."

That's what Health Valley is aiming for. It's the largest innovation network in Life Sciences & Health in the Netherlands; together with over 250 partners, it's working towards increased human health and improved healthcare for the future. It functions as a bridge between businesses, healthcare institutions, knowledge institutes and authorities.

Healthcare innovations are not only important; they're also absolutely necessarily, believes Doomernik. "In our society we are, on average, living longer lives. That's a good thing in itself, but if you look at the costs and the number of available professionals, it becomes evident that we cannot continue to provide healthcare in the same way. Innovation forms the key to the solution." Staying healthy and aging in a comfortable and happy way is the ultimate goal for everyone. "It's not the extension of life that we're focusing on per se; it's more about living in good health for longer thanks to quality healthcare.''

And Doomernik believes that more and more people are becoming aware of the fact that currently, there is still a divide. "In the future, it should no longer be the case that the people with the right education and the fattest wallet can afford to purchase the right facilities, while others cannot and are therefore experiencing a shorter life in lesser health."

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Attention to prevention

Doomernik is happy to notice increased attention to prevention. "How can you prevent yourself from falling ill? That question is at the heart of a big transition for the health service. For a long time, the health service focused purely on making people better. Happily, doctors are increasingly paying more attention to healthy living. Medicines aren't always the solution; sometimes a different nutritional or exercise pattern is what's needed."

Doomernik also identifies the challenges. "Even after successful pilots, it's not a given that, for instance, a device or type of research is used across the board. Sometimes the funding is not achieved, it might take a long time to ensure certification, or an institute is trying to reinvent the wheel by not using pre-existing solutions. In that regard, there's still quite a way to go. We obviously want effective solutions to be widely applied as soon as possible."

Great climate for innovation

Health Valley has its offices in Nijmegen, which it refers to as the Health and High-Tech region of the Netherlands. It's looking for connections with parties from all over the Netherlands and even outside of the country. The province of Gelderland always remains important, however, also in terms of collaboration. "Half of our partners are from Gelderland. There's simply a lot going on here when it comes to innovation in healthcare. The interplay between companies and healthcare providers in the province is also going swimmingly. You can really tell that more and more companies are drawn this way because of the great climate for innovation that exists here. Collaborations tend to have a different nature than they did five years ago. There was attention for healthcare innovation then, but now parties are specifically tackling the subject in unison."

Working together is not a concept that needs to be exclusive to the healthcare sector, believes Doomernik. The fact that the area is also highly successful when it comes to food and energy, also allows for other collaborative opportunities. "The connection to food is an obvious one and that's something you see more and more of. Especially now there's more of a focus on prevention, in which healthy nutrition can play a significant role. In terms of energy, the healthcare parties are working towards a more sustainable climate. The silo mentality is greatly reduced. And that can only be good news. Of course, the sector-specific approach will still be needed at times but thinking across sectors can allow for more holistic solutions."