Smart Health and the High-Tech Strategy

Germany's High-Tech Strategy - Unlocking Innovative Potential

Health research and development and biotechnology play a significant role in Germany’s High-Tech Strategy as the country prepares to meet the challenges of the 21st century. The innovative potential of the health sector is being unlocked through new health care delivery and knowledge/technology transfer models.

Germany is the world's third biggest medical technology producer and medical services provider. It is also the global number two in biotech medical solutions key to therapeutic drug and regenerative medicine development.

Germany's health sector is one of the largest industries in the country, accounting for more than 10 percent of GDP and boasting a workforce more than 4 million strong. Approaching a million new jobs will be created in the sector by 2020 as Germany pursues its High-Tech Strategy goals.

High-Tech Strategy 2020

The High-Tech Strategy 2020 identifies five broad areas in which Germany is striving to attain lead provider of science and technology-based solutions status by 2020. These are:

  • Climate/Energy
  • Health/Nutrition
  • Mobility
  • Security
  • Communication

High-Tech Strategy 2020 Action Plan - Forward-looking Projects (Health)

The German government passed the High-Tech Strategy Action Plan in March 2012 for the further implementation of the High-Tech Strategy.

Ten so-called "forward-looking projects" are the focus of research and innovation policy as part of the High-Tech Strategy 2020 Action Plan. Specific objectives are pursued within these projects over a period of 10 to 15 years.

Three of the High-Tech Strategy 2020 Action Plan's 10 forward-looking projects are health related in nature.

Forward-looking Project: Individualized Medicine

Individualized medicine represents a major challenge for health researchers, health care systems and the health care sector. As well as allowing more effective medical treatments and therapies to be developed, individualized medicine also allows new business models to be created. Data protection and patient safety represent special challenges in this context.

As part of the Health Research Framework Programme of the Federal Government, Germany is supporting the development of diagnostic and therapeutic agents in the form of direct funding at different stages in the innovation process (from fundamental life science R&D to pre-clinical and clinical patient-based research and commercialization).

One of the most fundamental challenges in the field of health research is achieving the greatest possible level of therapeutic effectiveness for each patient whilst simultaneously minimizing any potential side effects. Major progress in research into the causes of diseases and new diagnostic techniques are bringing this goal closer on the pathway to achieving individualized medicine.

Forward-looking Project: Health/Nutrition

A diverse range of factors including nutrition, physical activity, behavior, and even environmental factors can directly impact on illness incidence rates and health outcomes.

The Health/Nutrition forward-looking project has been created in order to investigate the links between food, the human body and health. It is a matter of common knowledge that regular exercise, a healthy diet and a number of environmental measures can help prevent disease, but what interactions within the body trigger a chain reaction in one person and not another?

Certain behaviors can help reduce the risk of certain diseases in individuals, even where there is a genetic predisposition, but to what extent are these internal and external factors interdependent?

By determining the causal relationships between diet and health, the project intends to make a significant contribution to disease prevention, reduce symptoms of dietary-related illness, and improve overall quality of life.

The benefits of prevention are manifest; enhancing general health and wellbeing while significantly reducing health and social welfare system costs. The creation of a new R&D funding concept will also allow new healthy and nutritious foods to be developed whilst promoting increased competitiveness in the food industry.

Forward-looking Project: Independent Living

Global megatrends of globalization, urbanization and demographic change are transforming the fabric of modern society. The current world population of seven billion is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. We are all getting older as populations in both the developed and developing worlds live longer lives. This has major repercussions for the societies we live in, be it in terms of its effects on the economy or our health and social security systems.

The advent of the Internet of Applications and Services and cyber-physical systems (CPS) are of crucial importance to independent living, playing as they do an important role in telemedicine and remote diagnostics, having been identified within the Agenda CPS as one of four major fields of application up to the year 2025.

Telemedicine (the term given to remote diagnostic and therapy measures using telecommunications to bridge distances between doctors and patients), for example, allows individuals with chronic conditions to be remotely monitored and treated from the comfort of their own homes (e.g. ambient assisted living). Cyber-physical systems will enable an aging population to live more active and independent lives, improving not only quality of life but also contributing significantly to necessary reductions in medical care and treatment costs.

High-Tech Strategy Projects

High-Tech Strategy - THESEUS

A lighthouse project within the High-Tech Strategy, THESEUS is the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy-promoted Internet of Applications and Services R&D program which ran from 2007 to 2012.

MEDICO

Within the framework of THESEUS, 60 research partners from science and industry developed new Internet of Services-based technologies for deployment in a number of different industry sector scenarios including health care. The MEDICO project makes use of innovative imaging techniques and semantic technologies to intelligently structure methods of measurement to transform diagnostics

High-Tech Strategy - Trusted Cloud

Thirty-eight companies, 26 scientific institutions and five further institutions are currently participating in the program’s 14 projects. Research and development activities were initiated in September 2011 and will continue through to the end of 2014.

The "Health Sector Applications" cluster consists of three research projects. Medical data is particularly sensitive and confidential in nature, making the safeguarding of confidentiality imperative.

Cloud-based applications which meet the exacting requirements of the health sector and make efficiency potential, utilizable, for example, through simulation data analysis, are being developed within the three Trusted Cloud health sector projects (cloud4health, GeneCloud and TRESOR). Practical solutions tailored to the requirements of small and medium-sized enterprises are also prioritized in this sector.

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