The European Centre for Connected Health is seeking technology and medical device companies to locate in Belfast, Northern Ireland, to develop new techniques for monitoring patients from home.
Like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, the European center, established this year, is working to improve methods of combating illness.
But while the CDC focuses on disseminating medical research and information, the European center is working to engage doctors, government and businesses in developing new remote monitoring technology.
Eoin Lambkin, director of business development firm Groupe Intellex in Belfast’s Northern Ireland Science Park, said that new heathcare and rapid communication devices could allow doctors to monitor patients with chronic conditions from home, freeing up hospital beds and reducing treatment costs.
He also said that he and others at the science park have been pushing to locate the center in Belfast for two years.
“Potentially it could be a significant economic driver for Northern Ireland,” Mr. Lambkin said. “The idea is, we’ll set up the center here at the Northern Ireland Science Park, which will be developing a cluster of companies to come here to develop not only the technologies for remote monitoring, but to look at setting the standards for remote monitoring.”
A delegation including Mr. Lambkin went to Brussels, Belgium, to elicit support from the European Union and Northern Ireland’s Health Ministry has pledged to support about $90 million in contracts for the project over the next three years.
Northern Ireland Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey and Economy Minister Nigel Dodds opened the center January 28 and said that 5,000 patients with chronic conditions in the United Kingdom province could be monitored remotely by 2011.
Mr. Lambkin said that local companies, especially with products developed at the science park, hope to benefit from the influx of projects, but a number of international firms exhibited products at the European Connected Health Expo May 7.
These included technology companies IBM Corp., Intel Corp. and Microsoft Corp. Medical supply companies like Honeywell HomMed LLC, Medtronic Inc. and Philips Healthcare also participated.
Officials at the center will be working to find partner companies through the summer of 2008 and aim to begin servicing patients by next year.
Mr. Lambkin said the positive political climate of recent years is facilitating investment in Northern Ireland.
His company took a contract during the science park’s construction to install wireless Internet capacity for the facility, and five years later he has moved his entire business and family to Belfast from England.
“We realized this was an extraordinarily happening place,” he said. “Northern Ireland was coming through its troubles, it’d had nearly a decade of the peace dividend. We saw politically the country was going to start controlling its own destiny.”
Groupe Intellex has since been at the center of developments in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter, the former Harland and Wolff shipyard that launched the Titanic but was vacated in 2000.
The area is currently being renovated into a high-tech business, retail and housing center. The science park was one of its first tenants when it opened in 2006.
Mr. Lambkin has also worked with local film bureau Northern Ireland Screen, which supports the province’s growing movie industry.
He worked in a technical advisory role during filming of Richard Attenborough’s “Closing the Ring,” which premiered in 2007. Starring Mischa Barton and Shirley MacLaine, it was the first major movie filmed in the Paint Hall studio in the Titanic Quarter.
Mr. Lambkin is now directing two businesses from his office in the science park, including Sonic Academy, a system of courses that train disc jockeys and music producers in using electronic musical equipment.