This is an abbreviated version of an article written by Alison Coleman for Fortune magazine
When Icelandic entrepreneurs Gauti Reynisson and Ívar Helgason needed a place to develop their high tech healthcare start-up Mint Solutions it wasn’t Berlin or Stockholm, or London that they looked to, but Eindhoven, a municipality located in the south of The Netherlands.
Specifically they headed for the city’s High Tech Campus, home to one of Europe’s leading accelerators Startupbootcamp High Tech XL, established on the former head office site of electronics giant Philips.
Mint Solutions is the company behind MedEye, a high tech medication verification system designed to tackle what has become a major problem for the medical profession – and for patients – that of the incorrect administration of medication.
Describing the scale of the problem, Reynisson says: “In the next 24 hours, patients in 6000 European hospitals will be getting over 40 million dosages of medication, yet one in five of these will be given incorrectly by the hospital nurse at the bedside.”
Sometimes, he says, the patient gets the wrong medication, sometimes it’s the wrong dose, and sometimes it is the wrong patient, but it means that over eight million dosages given today have something wrong with them, and it is mainly the result of increasing complexities and time pressures that nursing staff face.
Using patented computer vision hardware MedEye has been developed to effectively become the specialist ‘medication nurse’, that can be deployed in any hospital ward to verify and document all medications by simply looking at it.
Dutch appeal for European start-ups
So why is an Icelandic start-up building its solution in the Netherlands?
Reynisson says: “The Netherlands has turned out to be an excellent place to develop our product further. The technology is already proven and patents are pending. Our challenge was to show that our technology fits the daily routine of the healthcare professional. The Dutch healthcare system increasingly works with public and private partnerships, driven partly by the changes to health-care insurance schemes, but there is also an increased focus on addressing both patient safety and rising healthcare costs.”
As a young hardware company, their participation in in the accelerator program was key, as many of the mentors are closely linked to the Dutch ‘med-tech’ sector, a collaborative ecosystem that was instrumental in connecting the Mint Solutions founders with the right people inside the Dutch hospitals that are keen to implement change.
Innovation districts deliver results
And more are set to emerge from Eindhoven’s tech hotbed, says Jonathan Marks, an active Netherlands-based business mentor to European healthcare start-ups, who worked with the Dutch accelerator last year.
He says: “The old Philips campus has been transformed into the Hi Tech Campus, a base for 125 companies, operating in close proximity within one kilometer square area. The effect has been to create an extremely collaborative eco system; a diverse mix of entrepreneurs banging their heads together, a density of cleverness that is producing some amazing results. This is an innovation district in the truest sense of the term.”
The Netherlands is known for being an outward looking country, a trading nation by tradition, and a popular place for testing innovation – EMI tested its new songs there – while its business infrastructure, connectivity, ease of culture and lack of language barriers, and its compact geography, make it an ideal base for launching a global business.
Just weeks away from getting funded, others in the hi-tech hardware start-up space are coming through, with healthcare, security, energy and new materials all represented in Eindhoven’s Hi Tech Campus. Marks says: “Rather than trying to imitate Silicon Valley, these European start ups are building their own culture of innovation and it is not just the lean start-up or the disruptive technology. They know their strengths, and they are telling their stories, and are now starting to attract foreign investment.”