Unveiling Future Health Companies on a Global Scale

In this article, Luigi Pavia, leading Ecosystem Engagement & Partnerships at Frontiers Health, explores our rich legacy in co-designing open innovation initiatives with top industry players during global conferences. Reach out to collaborate on your events, campaigns, and initiatives for innovative solutions at FH24!

The motto ‘Where healthcare meets innovation’ defined the inaugural Frontiers Health conference, a commitment we’ve upheld throughout the years.

In the spirit of catalyzing meaningful innovations for patients, healthcare professionals, citizens, healthcare systems, and the industry as a whole, we introduced the Start-up Discovery format from the first global edition in 2016. Far from a traditional pitch competition, this format aims to provide exposure to emerging companies offering scalable, scientifically validated solutions to our broad audience, while also gaining insights and feedback from top investors. Over the years, the Discovery has been eagerly anticipated, with many presenting companies successfully entering the market.

Building on this success, our corporate partners, including large pharma companies and life sciences organizations, recognized the power of our platform to unleash and facilitate promising partnerships addressing specific processes or therapeutic issues, following an open innovation approach. Since then, we’ve diligently searched, vetted, and prepared hundreds of startups to engage with key industry players, curating highly customized events during our conferences, whether they be pitch competitions, award ceremonies, hackathons, and networking events. We’ve worked hand-in-hand with our sponsors and partners to identify the most fitting companies and create the most suitable setup to facilitate mutual knowledge, considering logistical, communication, and agenda perspectives.

Even during the pandemic emergency, we continued organizing similar initiatives in a virtual setting, maintaining the same level of efficiency in outcomes. In the following article, we will review all the efforts invested in harnessing innovations through various formats and the diverse array of players we’ve supported.

Let’s review all the initiatives curated across the editions.

Frontiers Health 2016

From the first edition in Berlin, at Umspannwerk Kreuzberg, Frontiers Health launched the Start-up Discovery, focusing on crucial themes such as AI & Machine learning patient services, consumer health, digital therapies, gamification of health, corporate wellness, telemedicine, digital biomarkers.

That format, which involves highly curated presentations by founders in front of the plenary audience, followed by a Q&A session with investors and corporate innovation managers and experts, continues to be valid and fruitful.

In addition, in 2016 Frontiers Health teamed up with Sandoz to power the Sandoz HACk – Healthcare Access Challenge.

To explore presenting companies and the investors involved in the Start-up Discovery and the Sandoz Challenge, discover more here.

Frontiers Health 2017

In 2027, Frontiers Health gathered over 400 thought leaders and over 100 startups from across the industry to discuss the growing digital health market, reflecting on the divergence of medicine and technology, as well as how digital innovation is shaping the future of healthcare.Several key topics were discussed, including the evolving role of AI, wearables, apps, and devices in improving healthcare, along with the potential of the newly coined ‘digital therapeutics’ field.

Besides the two acclaimed Start-Up Discovery sessions, Frontiers Health supported The Pfizer Healthcare Challenge 2017, designed to solve some of the key challenges faced by patients and their clinicians. The winning solution for each category received a financial reward of €5,000 as well as mentoring from Pfizer experts. Following the event, the winning solutions also had the opportunity to co-develop a project or receive a service contract with Pfizer. Discover more here.

Frontiers Health 2018

During the 2018 edition, in the cinematic scenario of Funkhaus, Frontiers Health fully unleashed its power of pivoting innovation by co-designing, hosting and showcasing open innovation models, corporate programs and other initiatives aiming at scouting promising solutions:

Frontiers Health 2019

With an ever-evolving health innovation global community, growing in numbers and categories, FH19 set the stage for multiple partnerships with life science organizations to craft innovation-driven sessions.

  • EIT HEALTH Headstart Awards. EIT Health is one of the biggest health initiatives worldwide, serving as a catalyst for healthcare innovation and enabling European citizens to live longer, healthier lives. As a network of best-in-class health innovators backed by the European Union, EIT Health fosters collaboration across European borders and supports innovators with funding, expertise, and access to the market, so that breakthrough ideas can be implemented rapidly for a stronger health ecosystem in Europe. 15 selected startups from the biotech, medtech and digital health areas had the opportunity to pitch their innovative solutions in front of the jury at Frontiers Health and compete for the €50,000 awards, provided by the EIT Health Headstart Funding Program, aimed at supporting early-stage companies in developing new products and services.
  • Start-up Discovery I
  • Start-up Discovery II
  • Digital Garden – powered by Almirall. “Innovation is not a concept it’s an experience”. A selection event for the Digital Garden, powered by Almirall, where a pre-selected group of digital health startups was selected to join their new acceleration program based in Barcelona, Spain. The Digital Garden sought to address dermatological challenges in new ways leveraging innovative digital health solutions. The program was designed to grow startups with the aim of facilitating their progression into venture capital funding.
  • Ferrer 4 Future (F4F) call for digital solutions along the patient care value chain. The F4F program addressed start-ups interested in working with smaller pharmaceutical companies allowing for a closer and more intimate relationship with the team of mentors and senior management.
  • Bayer G4A Pitch and Beer. This session was designed both for startups and investors: to introduce new ways of partnering with the team at G4A and to co-create innovative healthcare solutions.
  • Meet & Partner with Johnson & Johnson Innovation. Johnson & Johnson was interested in collaborating with early-stage companies and researchers to generate transformational healthcare solutions that can bring value to patients. During this session, leaders from Johnson and Johnson Innovation presented their model of innovation through collaboration, then selected early-stage companies and researchers had the opportunity to present their technologies/solutions in front of the Johnson and Johnson Innovation team and discuss potential collaboration and investment opportunities.

Frontiers Health 2020

In the midst of the pandemic, a hybrid format was chosen for the 2020 edition, combining online global streaming  with offline events and activities held at Local Hubs in multiple locations such as Italy, Germany, Finland, Malta, Spain, Switzerland and USA. Reasonably key global health players activated all their sources and networks to identify robust solutions to tackle the most compelling challenges, and Frontiers Health stood alongside them in support.

  • Novartis’ innovation challenge. To further advance the development of innovative solutions, Novartis hosted an innovation challenge at Frontiers Health 2020, searching for startups and innovation-driven companies working on: real world data for advanced research and personalized therapy in cancer, and solutions for monitoring neovascular age-related macular degeneration outside the physician’s office. The selected startups pitched at the virtual session and will get an opportunity to present their solution to a board of Novartis experts.
  • Achieving Health Moonshots with StartUp Health & Bringing Access to Care to Everyone. Continuing our collaboration with StartUp Health, we hosted five Health Transformers that were leapfrogging legacy systems and dreaming up brand new ways of doing business to achieve their Health Moonshot: Access to Care.
  • EIT HEALTH Headstart Awards. While enhancing our collaboration with EIT Health, FH20 hosted 11 selected startups from the biotech, medtech and digital health that pitched their innovative solutions and competed for the €50 000 awards, provided by the EIT Health Headstart Funding Program, aimed at supporting early-stage companies in developing new products and services.

Operating in a digital environment, we decided to allow for more Start-up Discovery sessions, focusing on very specific areas:

Frontiers Health 2021

Back in person, with a reduced capacity of guests to comply with local COVID-19 restrictions, and partly virtually, Frontiers Health gathered its global community in Milan at Palazzo Castiglioni for a long-awaited regroup. At FH21 many innovation initiatives found their home.

Frontiers Health 2022

The event gathered +850 in-person delegates, plus hundreds of digital attendees. The 2022 edition shed light on topics such as digital therapeutics, digital care delivery and telehealth, digital transformation in life sciences, digital public health and more.

Other open innovation sessions have been led at FH22, but our partners specifically requested us to run them privately as closed-door events due. Thus, they’re not mapped in the public agenda.

Frontiers Health 2023

FH23, held in Rome at Auditorium della Tecnica, was designed as an extended event, including inspiring side event, the Italian Summit and the inaugural Digital Medicine & DTx Global Policy Summit. Within such a complex and rich program, we continued to sustain initiatives and opportunities to showcase brilliant health companies.

  • Start-up Discovery – Session 1
  • Start-up Discovery – Session 2
  • Start-up Discovery – Session 3
  • Start-up Discovery – Session 4
  • Start-up Discovery – Session 5
  • Networking session & Happy Hour: Elevating partnerships to unleash the potential of Consumer Health. Bayer Consumer Health introduced their new partnering program Elevate, and curated networking session to discuss partnering experiences, challenges, and success.
  • How to boost the digital transformation of the pharmaceutical packaging – Bormioli Pharma’s Open Innovation Model. Over the last 5 years, Bormioli Pharma has been developing an Open Innovation program called “Bormioli Pharma Invents”, that aims to understand how primary packaging can be integrated into the digital healthcare ecosystem to contribute to patients’ wellness and the efficacy of the pharma supply chain.
  • The Femtech Investment Opportunity. This session was curated by Tech4Eva Accelerator, to get some insights on the Femtech investment opportunity while also discovering some of Tech4Eva’s Accelerator solutions, all addressing the needs of the Women’s health journey.
  • Catalyzing the Future of Health: Exploring Canada’s Digital Health Ecosystem. This breakout session, in partnership with Invest in Canada, shined a spotlight on five Canadian startups that are revolutionizing healthcare with their innovative technologies. The session also provided an opportunity to explore the possibilities of collaborating with Canada’s Applied Pharmaceutical Innovation, a network of over 100 pharmaceutical scientists, clinicians, regulatory, patent, and market experts, that helps bring life-saving research to the real world.
  • VITA Accelerator Demo Day. VITA Accelerator presented their startups, bringing them on stage to pitch and demo their solutions.
  • Innovation Ecosystem Gathering. The inaugural “Frontiers Health Innovation Ecosystem Gathering” brought together the most active digital health incubators, accelerators, innovation labs and venture studios that are advancing successful innovative solutions in the health space globally. This initiative aims to provide an excellent opportunity for key health innovation facilitators from Europe and around the world to share their insights and learnings on common challenges, experiences, trends, and perspectives.

We’re proud of the role Frontiers Health has played across the years in boosting the emergence and the implementation of proven, scalable, and innovative solution in the health space and are committed to nurturing fruitful partnership to advance the industry.

Whether you are a life science organization, a tech company or another industry player, reach out to us to design a custom program to scout fitting solutions and reliable partners. Great things happen at Frontiers! Stay tuned.