In early 2020, new plans were announced for building a new Campus at the heart of Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Based on the grounds of Erasmus MC, the Campus will provide a location for the recently established convergence programme of the Erasmus University Medical Center, Erasmus University Rotterdam and Delft University of Technology (TU Delft ) where these three highly respected institutions collaborate on innovation and education across the many themes related to future health.
Today we have the privilege to talk to Hans van Leeuwen, vice-chair of the board of directors and Dean at Erasmus MC about the plans for the Campus, what makes Rotterdam the ideal place for innovation in health technology and how this will benefit society, science and companies alike.
Setting the right conditions
An important aspect of future healthcare will be to develop a shared understanding of the required conditions to facilitate innovation and transition in health care and enable moving from cure to prevention. Technological and artificial intelligence (AI) innovations are at the centre of this. An example project is Consultation Room 2030. The team realizes that as we currently think of a consultation room as four walls, a doctor and a patient, a totally different setting will be needed in the future to facilitate the new reality.
Easy access to secure patient data will be prevalent and the role of doctors will evolve as technology takes over many of their analytical tasks and operations. We, both patients and health care providers, need to accept and trust technology and AI. At the same time at a macro level, the health care budget is important as well as the socioeconomic differences and access to health care and chances of staying healthy. This all is an integral part of a typical convergence project like Consultation Room 2030 where technology, (bio)medical, economic and social sciences come together.
Rotterdam, a destined region for future health to take shape
To substantiate Rotterdam’s focus on future health, let’s consider the region’s heritage, its current context and the fundaments of future healthcare. For example, we can look at the knowledge mix at Erasmus MC, Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) and TU Delft, 3 top institutes within a 15km radius. Erasmus MC is the largest and highest-ranked academic medical center in the Netherlands. TU Delft is world-renowned in mechanical engineering, mathematics and computer science & information systems, while EUR has an outstanding reputation in health economics, business & management and social sciences. This mix of knowledge has created the perfect outset which is exactly what we need in future health.
Solid digital infrastructure
Digital solutions will be determinative in future healthcare and solid digital infrastructure is a prerequisite for enabling that future. The Netherlands has among the best digital infrastructures in the world and continues to invest and upgrade. But the real challenge lies in creating a solid data-based health research infrastructure for optimal access to knowledge, tools, facilities, health data and samples. Van Leeuwen: “A multidisciplinary approach is required to enable this in a secure, ethical, legally valid, patient-centred and user-friendly manner. Erasmus MC is a trusted high-quality health care partner, but we also need to be the trusted partner when it comes to the patient’s data.”
The Research Suite program is linked to Health-RI, a collaborative programme initiated by the Dutch Federation of University Medical Centers, that has recently secured a 69 million subsidy of the ‘Nationaal Groeifonds’ programme.
A local living lab to solve global health challenges
Future health is about much more than medicine, it is about being healthy throughout life. “We are shifting from a cure-based approach to a prevention-based approach: promoting a healthy lifestyle as opposed to providing treatments after the damage is already done.” Welfare plays a crucial role in lifestyle, and Rotterdam is a classroom example of a multicultural city with broad social and economic diversity. This makes our region an ideal testing ground for studying health care differences and for new approaches to promoting a healthy lifestyle and facilitating lifestyle changes. It really is a ‘Living Lab and a proxy of global challenges”, which means that solutions will have a global impact.
Creating solutions with global impact
“The new Campus brings together current expertise in the delivery of healthcare in order to achieve new solutions for the future. Hereto, we would be happy to welcome other healthcare institutions to our campus like the Eye Hospital, Rijndam Rehabilitation Centre and Laurens. We expect that collaboration between care providers, academic researchers and patients will lead to new innovations, which can be tested and optimized in the real-life setting at the healthcare institution.”
For the investments in the Campus and the resulting innovations to benefit our national and global society, expertise in entrepreneurship and business management is added to the mix. Experts from EUR and TU Delft are engaged to help successfully bring these solutions to market and establish a scalable business model.
Join this exciting community and co-create the future of health
The excellent preconditions in the greater Rotterdam – Delft – The Hague region have played an important role in the emergence of the many current developments, such as the convergence between the three research institutions, in shaping the future of healthcare. It already attracts companies to the region, who find a home in one of the entrepreneurial hotspots in Rotterdam, such as Cambridge Innovation Centre. The new Campus will help accelerate the initiatives and bring together a highly diverse community of academic experts, healthcare professionals and companies. Leading facilities, data infrastructure and the right conditions will be in place to ignite new ideas, create a test environment in the surrounding living labs of Rotterdam and deliver to the global market. Sharing a healthy future with the world.