International health congress brings 250 health professionals to Antwerp

At the beginning of September, Antwerp was the host city for “The 5th Conference on Digital Health”, an international conference on digital developments in healthcare. Thanks to the use of artificial intelligence, how can a physician support his patients remotely? These and other (r)evolutions in health care were discussed during the two-day congress. Start-up company, Econ, won during the conference a pitching competition. This company, which detects tuberculosis patients with the help of  algorithms, received an innovation voucher worth €2,000 from the city of Antwerp.

The 5th Conference on Digital Health

On September 4 and 5, Antwerp hosted The 5th Conference on Digital Health for the second time at the BluePoint business centre. 250 (inter)national visitors attended debates and talks, presented by 36 experts from the health sector. In addition to actual cases from companies active in the healthcare sector, attendees also received strategic insight into the implementation of digital transformation in corporate life. This is because digital transformation means a lot more than just technology and data itself, it also means creating a more sustainable healthcare model for the future, enabled by technology and digital.

The growth potential of eHealth in Antwerp

The fact that the congress took place in Antwerp was no coincidence. The city has more than 4,000 hospital beds spread over several hospitals, and they increasingly collaborate and specialise. The infrastructure for assisted living residences, residential care centres, and care homes is also expanding at a constant rate. The growth potential of eHealth in and around Antwerp is therefore very high.

Antwerp has many assets to ensure it can play a pioneering role in the transformation of healthcare. These include the unique concentration of hospitals and healthcare institutions, the Institute of Tropical Medicine being located there, the fastest growing student population in Flanders (which means the healthcare sector can count on talent in the future), and last but not least, a dense ecosystem of healthcare providers and companies that are active in the healthcare sector.

Start-up company Epcon receives innovation voucher from the city of Antwerp

In the run-up to the conference, 10 healthcare start-up companies presented their innovative solutions during a pitching competition. Ten growth companies impressed the jury, which consisted of national and international investors, with their innovative products. The jury nominated Epcon as the winner.

The company is developing a technology to detect tuberculosis (TB) patients and TB outbreaks. Every year 1.6 million people die from the disease around the world. The Antwerp company uses information about population density, migration routes, climate measurements, and diagnosis and death data about TB.

From the jury report: “Epcon's technology can save lives. The start-up is succeeding in tackling a global health problem by using innovative technology. We believe this fledgling project has all the properties to grow into an international, relevant product with a tangible social and medical impact.”

“The innovation voucher came as a surprise for our start-up,” says Vincent Meurrens, managing director of Epcon. “We started our business in Antwerp last year, and meanwhile we have been active in South Africa, Pakistan and the Philippines. We want to use this prize to seek external advice to conduct research into other conditions such as measles, ebola and other communicable diseases. This will help us make better use of our technology to improve quality of life worldwide and save more lives.

Antwerp, with the The Beacon innovation hub as its home base, seemed to be the ideal place to propagate our innovative ideas and grow them into scalable and tangible healthcare solutions.

The voucher is one of the many initiatives the city of Antwerp is using to grow innovative entrepreneurship. This commitment from the city is bearing fruit. Antwerp has become a real hotspot for start-ups. The number of start-ups and scale-ups increased by 123% over the 2012-2018 period. And in 2018, 4 times more capital on average was raised than in 2012. Antwerp now has more than 400 start-ups, dozens of growth companies, various incubators, accelerators and other start-up initiatives.

You want to realise an innovation in the digital, circular or health economy or in fashion and design. You have a tight strategic plan to develop this concept. But you lack the budget to realise your project.

Keep on reading. The city of Antwerp may financially support your innovation.
Innovate Antwerp, published by The Global Village, is part of a publication series on worldwide innovative ecosystems. Antwerp is the first region in the European Union that is featured in the series. In the book, readers discover a wide range of initiatives, companies and people that focus on innovation.