• Madrid Investment Attraction

Carmen Oliva, Vice President of the MAD e-Health cluster: “Our mission is to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset within the healthcare ecosystem”

In just over two years of existence, the MAD e-Health cluster has established itself as a key hub in Madrid’s digital health ecosystem. It brings together over a hundred partners, including multinational corporations, startups, public and private hospitals, universities, and research centers.

Carmen Oliva serves as its vice president. In this interview, Mrs. Oliva discusses the ongoing projects, upcoming initiatives, and Madrid’s role in the global digital health sector.

M.I.A.: How and when did the e-Health cluster emerge?

C.O.: The inception of our e-Health cluster is rooted in the Villa Agreements, and it was formally established in October 2021, in harmony with the Municipal Plan for Recovery, Transformation, and Resilience following the pandemic.

One of our primary objectives is to catalyse economic activity within the digital health sector. We aspire to enhance healthcare quality and elevate citizens’ well-being by integrating technological innovations into the healthcare domain.

Our cluster aims to serve as an effective platform for public-private collaboration, fostering coordinated efforts among government bodies, entrepreneurs, investors, universities, and research centres. We strive to ensure synergistic actions and contribute to shaping public policies and resource allocation in the realm of e-Health.

M.I.A.: What activities are carried out within the cluster?

C.O.: Within the cluster, we organize monthly events known as Demo Days, where we highlight innovative projects in the sector. These in-person gatherings foster networking and facilitate the development of new collaborations between companies. Over the past two years, more than fifteen projects have emerged from these events. Larger companies in the cluster have partnered with smaller startups, either through collaboration agreements or by forming new joint ventures. One recent example is the partnership between Eulen, a major player in security, cleaning, and socio-healthcare services, and HomeDoctor, a startup specializing in patient monitoring and home hospital care services. Additionally, we host congresses, workshops, and provide support to cluster partners in their search for funding.

Furthermore, we host a weekly radio program called the Health Entrepreneurship Forum on Radio Intereconomía. Through this platform, we invite companies from the sector to showcase their work and engage in discussions on topics relevant to the healthcare system. Our goal is to cultivate entrepreneurship and foster an environment conducive to innovation within the industry.

M.I.A.: What is your assessment of these two years of work?

C.O.: 2022 served as a testing ground, marking our inception. By 2023, we successfully solidified our initial vision, demonstrating that business networking fosters innovation and effective collaboration among companies. With over a hundred partners now, our growth has been exponential. There’s a remarkable interest in our ecosystem within Madrid. The municipality’s aim to enhance the city’s GDP, foster job creation, and spur entrepreneurship has been well-served by the digital health sector. It’s evident that activities related to digital health not only generate substantial business within companies but also enrich the broader ecosystem.

M.I.A.: What are your prospects for 2024?

C.O.: Looking ahead, we’re committed to furthering entrepreneurship in the digital health sector. One of our key initiatives is organizing a digital health congress scheduled for June 26th. This event will delve into critical topics such as medical records, data interoperability, digital therapies, and patient monitoring, alongside a dedicated focus on the senior economy. We’ve also forged a partnership with the Málaga Silver Economy Hub, enriching our upcoming congress.

Moreover, we’ll maintain our momentum by spearheading a range of commissions led by our partners. These will address a variety of critical areas such as women’s health, clinical data interoperability, and partnerships with organizations like the Spanish Association Against Cancer. Additionally, we’re in the process of setting up an investment fund to bolster cluster companies and assist those in need of financing.

Our flagship endeavor involves launching a digital health “valley” in Madrid, serving as an accelerator for both cluster and international startups in the healthcare sector, positioning Madrid as a thriving hub for innovation.

Looking further ahead, we envision creating a pioneering organization called “Digital4Health,” uniting cities and valleys under a public-private collaboration framework. With esteemed institutional partners onboard, our ambition is to establish this entity as a global leader in AI for health.

M.I.A.: In Madrid, and across Spain, life expectancy continues to rise steadily. MAD e-Health initially focused on issues concerning the elderly population. Apart from monitoring, are there any other solutions where Madrid can serve as a benchmark, offering insights for other regions to learn from?

C.O.: Certainly. Beyond monitoring, technology plays a crucial role in promoting active aging, particularly through digital therapies. Our population is aging, yet it’s aging more healthily. However, our healthcare system has its limitations, necessitating complementary services to prevent overload. Digital therapies offer personalized solutions for various pathologies, reducing the need for frequent in-person visits to hospitals or health centers. Moreover, the demand for anti-aging treatments is experiencing exponential growth.

What lessons can other countries draw from our efforts? Madrid stands at the forefront of initiatives aimed at fostering individual well-being, particularly through active aging facilitated by digital innovations.

M.I.A.: How does the cluster collaborate with public institutions such as hospitals, research centres, and universities?

C.O.: Our collaboration with universities and research centres is already underway. Although our engagement with public hospitals is in its infancy due to jurisdictional constraints—healthcare falls under the purview of the Autonomous Community rather than the City Council of Madrid—we’re actively working to expand our involvement in this area.

M.I.A.: What kind of support does the City Council offer? Do they refer new companies looking to establish themselves in Madrid to you?

C.O.: Throughout the year, bilateral meetings have proven invaluable. We’ve engaged with representatives from the UK, Finland, and France, facilitated by Madrid Investment Attraction, This initiative connects international companies with our ecosystem, enabling us to assist them in networking and forging connections with other businesses.

Furthermore, Madrid Investment Attraction is facilitating partnerships with companies from Latin America eager to enter the European market. We act as a platform for their exposure, offering support through institutional presentations to investment funds and multinational corporations.

M.I.A.: What potential does Madrid hold for advancing the healthcare sector? Are there distinctive features that set it apart from other regions in Spain and Europe?

C.O.: Madrid is undoubtedly a powerhouse within Spain. We boast world-class public and private hospitals, renowned nationally and internationally for excellence in certain medical domains. In terms of fiscal incentives, Madrid offers a more favourable environment for company growth compared to other cities. Moreover, there’s a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem here. This combination creates fertile ground for rapid economic development.