Digital support for innovation in the Alzheimer’s challenge

Innovators from across Europe have contributed to solving one of the major health issues of our time by engaging in the Alzheimer’s challenge. This innovation journey, combinig online and offline ideation and collaboration, has sought to solve the challenge of getting patients with early signs of Alzheimer’s disease to seek medical consultation and care as early as possible.

The Alzheimer’s challenge was created as a collaboration though EIT Health between Openlab, The unit of bioentrepreneurship at Karolinska Institute and the prhamaseutical company Roche.

Annika Norén, Innovation Manager at Openlab and part of the Alzheimer’s challenge project team walks us through the journey, explaining the combination of digital and physical collaboration.

– Encouraging early testing and early intervention of Alzheimer’s is a complex challenge connected to human bahavior, psycology and denial. It is not a challenge that can be solved with a couple of workshops. We wanted to find a way for many people to work on it for an extended period of time. For this challenge collaboration was also very important. We wanted to involve people outside of our own oganizations, such as external experts, organizations and students throughout Europe. In order for all of this to happen, we used our digital innovation platform designed to facilitate ideation- and innovation processes with geographically spread participants.

The Alzhimer’s challenge platform was created based on Openlab’s exsisting public digital platform for open innovation, Develop your city, with some new features to further encourage collaboration and empathy for the end user.

The process was divided into a number of phases, with information for each phase provided on the platform. Local workshops were organized in different places as a complement to the online ideation. After the ideation phase a jury selected six ideas from the platform and the teams behind them were invited to a grand finale, a two day workshop in Stockholm. At the workshop other participants also attended, as well as an expert panel and the jury. Two great ideas got to share first place, one being an “experience space” focusing on awareness raising and the other a brain exercising tool geared towards prevention.

A collection of ideas from the alzheimer's challengeBoth on the digital platform and during workshops open innovation has been important and encouraged. Annika continues:

– We wanted an open process where anyone could join at any time, and where the ideas belonged to everyone. The focus should be on collaborating to find solutions that can benefit the patient the most, rather than focusing on who is behind the idea.

For Annika working with the challenge of Alzheimer’s has been interesting and eye-opening.

– We live longer and Alzheimer’s is a growing public health problem that will affect more and more people in the future. We need to find solutions. It is a terrible disease and there is a big lack of knowledge in society and in health care, which increases the stigmatization, leading to more patients in denial.

Despite the heavy subject of Alzheimer’s Annika is hopeful. She has learned about new treatments being developed and reseach making progress, and have met many devoted people through the project.

– There are so many dedicated people with a lot of ideas and a will and passion to solve things. It is inspiring. You just want to get them together and provide them with the means to develop the ideas and channel their devotion. This is not a challenge you solve easily, it will take time, but we need to keep working on it together.

Openlab strives to be a learning organisation and through the Alzheimer’s challenge we have gained further insights on how our digital platform can support the innovation process, and how meeting online and in-person fills different needs in different phases of the process.

Contact our platform coordinator Ida if you want to know more about our digital innovation platform and how it can be used in your project to gather ideas and solve complex challenges.