Nicosia, 9 November 2023
The European EIT Health i-Days 2023 event which promotes health innovation, organised by Junior Achievement Cyprus, was successfully completed on the weekend of 21 and 22 October 2023. The event was hosted at the Cleopatra Hotel in Nicosia.
Innovation Days (i-Days) promote health innovation among university students through dozens of one- and two-day programs taking place across Europe in October and November 2023.
The i-Days in Nicosia, Cyprus focused on the challenges facing oncology and cancer patients, so the two-day challenge was about innovation in areas related to cancer, such as Prevention, Early Diagnosis, Treatment, Rehabilitation, Data Collection and Analysis, Psychological Support, Reintegration, Palliative Care and Research. During the i-Days, students formed multidisciplinary teams and worked hard towards that direction.
On Day one of the programme, we had welcome notes from Andreas Papadopoulos, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Junior Achievement Cyprus, the President of Novartis Cyprus and Malta, Fabio Sperandei and the General Manager of the Research and Innovation Foundation, Theodoros Loukaidis.
The introduction was undertaken by Eleni Tovletian, coordinator of the programme. Excerpts from personal experiences of cancer patients and the challenges they face both in relation to the disease and in their daily lives were presented by Andreas Christodoulou, representative of the OSAK/Cyprus Patient Associations Federation.
Dr. Yiola Markou presented the National Strategy for Cancer Control in Cyprus along with suggestions for improving the strategy in the context of good practices from other countries.
On the first day of the event, a panel discussion took place which analyzed the challenges that various organizations face and how these can be addressed using technology and innovation. The members of the panel discussion were Andreas Christodoulou (OSAK), the gynecologist Dr. Konstantinos Stylianidis, Dr. Michael Panagiotidis (CING), Dr. Paul Costeas (Karaiskakeio Foundation), Dr. Yiola Markou (Bank of Cyprus Oncology Centre), Elena Georgiou Strouthou (Cocoon Creations), Fabio Sperandei (Novartis), Maria Terzi (Malloc) and Theodoros Loukaidis (Research and Innovation Foundation). The moderator of the discussion was the CEO of Junior Achievement, Antigoni Komodiki.
After the discussion 4 biotech companies presented their entrepreneurial journey and inspired the students with real entrepreneurial stories. Dr. Marianna Prokopi – Dimitriadis presented the creation of three biotechnology startups, Dr. Theofylaktos Apostolou presented the journey of Embio Diagnostics, Dr. Natalia Konova from Bulgaria, presented the Amira Meditech startup. Last, Marios Pafitis and Alexandra Dimitriadou shared the journey of MammoCheck, a startup that launched in the first year the entrepreneurial bootcamp was held.
Michalis Strouthos, founder of Cocoon Creations, shared his experiences and suggestions on how a startup can build the best team.
The students received support from experts and mentors from the business and health fields, as well as training from Dr. Diana Nikolaou, using modern tools and the Business Model Canvas for the development of their ideas.
The 62 participants gained valuable business skills, developed multidisciplinary, and actively worked to propose innovative solutions to health challenges.
On the second day of the event, the students received information on ways to finance their idea and startup from representatives of the Research and Innovation Foundation, Cyprus Seeds, and the IDEA innovation Centre.
Sixteen student teams presented their ideas to the jury committee. The committee consisted of Andreas Panagi (Kinisis Ventures), Costas Pitsillidis (Promed Bioscience), Dr. Michael Panagiotidis (CING), Dr. Paul Costeas (Karaiskakio Foundation), Dr. Styliani Petroudi (CYENS), Elena Georgiou Strouthou (Cocoon Creations), Loukia Samata (Novartis), Marilena Paraskeva (Research and Innovation Foundation) and Panagiotis Philimis (CyRIC).
The winning team of i-Days Nicosia 2023 is team Matakia. The team consists of Marios Christodoulidis, Kyriaki Kekkou, Linn Persson and Maria Witkowiak. The team presented an innovative solution to prevent and support early diagnosis eye cancer in children. According to statistics, every 85 minutes, a child dies of eye cancer. The Matakia team proposed a solution that would aim to raise awareness of eye cancer and encourage early eye exams in children. The team proposed a children’s picture book with interactive exercises using a flashlight. With this solution, parents can have an easy examination of their child in the comfort of their own home. The earlier the problem is diagnosed, the better the outcome for the patients will be.
The team will travel to Barcelona, Spain to compete with all the national winners from Europe and represent Cyprus at a high-level European competition.
The CEO of Junior Achievement Cyprus, Antigoni Komodiki, said: ‘’Innovation in healthcare is not a choice. It is our duty as educational organizations to strengthen our programmes’ outreach and impact, in order to have an island that dares to innovate and progress. i-days is the best proof of the ways in which we can work together towards this direction.”
The President of Novartis Cyprus and Malta, Fabio Sperandei said: ‘’In Novartis, we strongly believe that partnerships between pharma industry, startups, academia, medical experts and other stakeholders in research and innovation can unleash the full potential of the ecosystem and foster the development of innovative solutions that contribute to prolong and improve cancer patients’ journey in Cyprus. Together, we can continue reimagining cancer care until we reach cure.’’
The Director General of the Research and Innovation Foundation (IdEK), Theodoros Loukaidis, emphasized RIF’s long-standing support to high impact initiatives, such as iDays, which contribute to shaping and empowering the country’s next generation of innovators. “At the same time,” he said, “we provide all creative minds with the necessary funding and support to develop ground-breaking innovations and bring them to market.”
EIT Health i-Days 2023 was funded by EIT Health, Novartis Cyprus and the Research and Innovation Foundation. Furthermore, many partner organizations supported the competition such as Cocoon Creations, CYENS Center of Excellence, Cyprus Federation of Patients’ Associations, the Cyprus Oncology Society, Cyprus Seeds, the Department of Business and Public Administration of the University of Cyprus, Gravity Incubator, the Idea Innovation Centre, the Karaiskaki Foundation, Kinisis Ventures, and the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics.
The programme does not end with the completion of the two-day event. All teams that wish, as well as groups or individuals who did not take part in the i-days, can register for the Beyond Pre-Accelerator at https://jacyprus.org/en/beyond/ to further develop their business idea.
Junior Achievement Cyprus is a member of the global non-profit organization JA Worldwide and specializes in education for entrepreneurship, financial literacy, and the labor market.
More information can be found on the website www.jacyprus.org
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