It’s not quite Dragon’s Den but it operates along similar principles — Ireland’s first Health Innovation Hub could prise open the hospital door for entrepreneurs eager to test products that could ultimately transform the patient experience — and generate jobs and revenue in the process.

The hub, which UCC has piloted for the past three years in collaboration with Cork Institute of Technology (CIT), has already facilitated the testing of a number of products. Among them is a pillow impervious to liquids and bugs, giving it a long shelf-life, manufactured by Gabriel Scientific and successfully trialled in University Hospital Waterford and the South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital Cork.

Another promising product is Lincor’s bedside monitor, installed in the respiratory ward at Cork University Hospital, which doubles as an entertainment unit and an educational tool, where patients can learn about their own specific disease.

The purpose of the hub is to act ostensibly as a “match-making agency” introducing entrepreneurs and innovators to clinicians and academics where up to now such access didn’t exist, said hub director, Dr Colman Casey.

Because the hub stretches across three hospital groups (South/South West, Dublin Midlands and Saolta in the West/North West), companies will effectively have access to 23 hospitals, as well as community healthcare facilities and three clinical research networks. The hub will partner with NUIG and Trinity College Dublin going forward.

“We’ll assemble the doctors, nurses, clinical researchers, and we’ll triage applications from each company and match them with the relevant healthcare professionals. There’s no guarantee at the end that a company will be successful in getting their product adopted but if they are successful, their product could ultimately benefit the patient,” said Dr Casey.

On foot of its successful pilot phase, the hub was formally launched at UCC yesterday by Health Minister Simon Harris. Enterprise Ireland is providing €5m in funding over the next five years, mainly towards staffing costs in Cork, Galway, and Dublin. The Health Service Executive will also contribute staff.

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