E-Labs stories

1 – Design Thinking and mindset change to increase innovative potential

Sweden, Spring 2017


EIT Health Starter-Labs (E-Labs) are creative centres where students work in interdisciplinary teams on real-life challenges, provided by private or public partners. The pan-European E-Lab Network, which is part of the EIT Health CAMPUS programme, looks towards building a new generation with an innovative mind-set, resulting in an overall improvement of health care. The vision is to transform the academic landscape of education towards increased entrepreneurial competence and engagement by connecting, educate and empower the innovators of tomorrow.
“Practical Placement – Design Thinking challenges” is a project at the E-Lab in Stockholm. The project aims to establish the possibility for students to experience and train working with innovative design-based methods in a corporate setting. A selected group of students are placed at companies of the EIT Health consortium, in this case AbbVie. The hosting companies supply the challenge that the students work on, which can vary from product development and customer research to improving company-internal processes. The students work with creative and innovative methods, applying the design thinking process. Not only they thereby gather invaluable insights and develop solutions from it, they also visibly implementing new working methods into the company, guided by an experienced design thinking coach. The project has so far been piloted as part of the Masters’ programme in Bioentrepreneurship at Karolinska Institutet. This programme has a mandatory practical placement where the students work on challenges from companies and organisations. The aim of the pilot was to utilise the experience from the existing masters’ programme where students already work on practical challenges, at the same time as developing it further to incorporate the design thinking methodology.
Sushruth Shastri was the first student to take on the “Practical Placement – Design Thinking challenges”. Sushruth was born in Northern Ireland, grew up in Mumbai, took his bachelors in Dubai and was on the Masters programme for Bioentrepreneurship in Stockholm when he applied to be part of the placement because of the design-thinking element. He found “the project was fast paced, and stimulating, … I learned so many things, from the team and other people working at the company, about finance, how processes work internally, the importance of the voice of the ‘user’, but most importantly, I learned that one should never be afraid to ask for help, and that stuck with me.
The design thinking process is a structured framework for identifying challenges, gathering information, generating potential solutions, refining ideas, and testing solutions.
“Through the course of the project, the scope was defined after interviewing ‘users’ of these processes and the project ended with a prototyping workshop where the concept was tested. I was pleased to learn that when my time at AbbVie was done, the project was taken forward and that my efforts contributed to a project that would be adopted by the Swedish affiliate of AbbVie.”
He has continued to use the skills he learnt whilst working on his thesis at a hospital in Stockholm and afterwards setting up a start-up healthcare consultancy with a friend that uses design thinking. Operating out of Openlab (one of the Stockholm E-Lab partners), he is currently working with a project facilitating the early diagnosis of endometriosis and has recently taken part in a Design Thinking competition hosted by the Stockholm E-lab.

Socioeconomic impact

  • The Design thinking concept and practical placements open individuals up to new skills and innovative approaches which become assets for their personal professional journey but also for the companies they work with. The companies gained innovative students with a pioneering spirit that aided new angels and provided an opportunity to introduce Design Thinking into their company culture and transformation of internal challenges. The participants gained continuous guidance from an experience design thinking coach, experience from working in a real-life industry setting and training in and practice with the innovation method design thinking.
  • A creative mind set is of outmost importance when it comes to meet the challenges of a changing health care system. Sushruth says “Using the design thinking process showed me the potential iterative innovation has in an organisation with established processes and protocols. The project that the team and I worked with was optimising internal processes, and we began to do so by looking at perceptions people had. Listening, is perhaps the most important part of the design thinking process, at least in my opinion, as it builds a foundation for innovation, and reminds you that we are all people with emotion.”
  • For a student, gaining knowledge of the Design Thinking method and the problems facing health industry can be a game-changing experience. They get new innovative angles to their own projects, careers and accelerate their innovative potential. It challenges the established ways of working within a trade and prepares (in this case) young people and companies with life science to better meet present and future challenges of the changing health care.
  • Sushruth established his own consultancy firm that aims to bring Design Thinking to life science and research.

Core EIT KPIs to which the success story has contributed

  • Attractiveness of educational programmes
  • Knowledge transfer /adoptions
  • Number of improved services reaching the market

KIC services provided

The Design thinking-based challenge is an initiative from Stockholm E-lab, a project within the EIT Health Campus pillar. Sushruth participated in a pilot during winter 2016-2017.
The Stockholm E-lab invited companies within the healthcare industry striving towards increasing their innovative potential, and matched them up with students seeking more opportunity for training and practice. This project created the opportunity for master students to gain experience during internships at companies, working with real life challenges in health care. The companies were from within the EIT Health consortium in the Stockholm area. The Stockholm Elab used the EIT network to find collaborators.
“The initiative by EIT Health made me grow as a professional, I benefited in so many ways, I built my network, gained confidence in my abilities, worked with an extremely diverse multidisciplinary team, saw the potential for open innovation, learned an invaluable lesson in life and most
importantly, got to work with what I love doing, Design Thinking! For all of this, I am eternally grateful to everyone that made it happen, I hope someday I can do the same for someone.”
Later in 2017, Sushruth has started his own consultancy firm targeting challenges in research and health care using Design Thinking, and is exploring other initiatives within the EIT Health KIC that could help him further his new career.

KTI elements in the services provided

E-lab is rooted in the fundamentals of knowledge-integration, one example of this is the opportunity practical placements using design thinking. Students are exposed to research, business and education in the program.
Sushruth has an MD that became a MBE (masters student at the bioentrepreneurship program) so he came from a research background and was subjected to education tailored to bridge from education and research to business. The Industrial challenge that Sushruth took part in brought innovation tools to the business from a person with insight into life science
and research. In the spring of 2017 Sushruth started his own consultancy firm to bring the innovation tool Design Thinking to life science and research. Thus, Sushruth has moved through “in a circle” through the triangle.
The method Design Thinking is seldom used in life sciences/ research. It brings an innovation tool to targets both in research and companies. To AbbVie it was valuable to have access to Design Thinking. “Sushruth’s work here was instrumental in displaying the use of design thinking, especially within finance which is not usually exposed to it,” explains Alex Barrat at

Communication activities

2 – EIT Health Arrowhead Workshop

Germany, Nov. 19th-20th 2019

Our achievement

On November 19th and 20th, the Technical University Munich hosted the very first EIT Health Arrowhead Workshop for Digital European Health Services. The Munich E-lab partners invited 17 international students and their academic coaches from Entrepreneurship Labs in Copenhagen, Grenoble, Lodz, Maastricht and Stockholm.

To foster exchange between the high potentials, all participants were divided into interdisciplinary teams of three to four students with diverse study backgrounds such as Medicine, Public Health, Bioentrepreneurship or Economics. Supported by coaches from the E-lab network partners, the goal for each team was to develop a business concept for digital European health services during this two-day hands-on workshop.

After getting to know each other on Monday morning, our project partner ottonova, a Munich-based private health insurance start-up, shared their valuable insights into the health sector and its technological disruptions to bring the students up to speed. The following workshops on problem statements and paper prototyping encouraged the students to create solutions based on jointly detected pain points.

The second day was then all about sharpening the elaborated concepts. After further input sessions, the five teams prepared their problem definitions, business models and prototypes for the final presentations. Final concepts ranged from an application for personalized medication checks to a chatbot helping to arrange health insurance issues as well as doctor appointments during stays abroad.

All in all, the set-up offered a perfect opportunity for students and academic coaches to gather cross-national knowledge in the field of healthcare and foster an innovative mind-set within the sector. Thanks to EIT Health and the E-labs network for making this unique experience possible!

Positive impact:

The EIT Health Arrowhead Workshop is a joint activity for interdisciplinary students and academic coaches, fostering exchange between high potentials interested in disrupting the health sector and strengthening the EIT E-lab network.

The 2-day Arrowhead workshop format could be expanded to a series of similar events, alternatingly hosted by the E-lab partner cities with different topics and event themes. This way the idea of connecting and educating the health innovators of tomorrow could be institutionalized.

EIT Innovation Community’s support

This pan-European event would not be possible without the EIT Health E-labs network and the support of the E-lab partners as coaches for the student teams. Also the EIT Health partner network is crucial to provide the event with real-life challenges and domain expertise from the industry.

Knowledge Triangle Integration model

The knowledge triangle integration is the basis for the developed workshop format since the close collaboration between the E-lab partners as experts in entrepreneurship education and methodologies together with the real-world experience and domain knowledge of industry partners fosters an innovative setting and allows to leverage the expertise available to the student teams to create innovative ideas in a rather short time frame.

Communications activities

EIT Health website article is currently in the process of being published


“The set-up of the Arrowhead workshop offered a perfect opportunity for students and academic coaches to gather cross-national knowledge in the field of healthcare and foster an innovative mind-set within the sector. You could definitely experience a unique team spirit and dedication throughout the two days!” Kilian Egger, student participant from Munich

3 – Pain RelieVR: Game your pain away

Netherlands, Dec. 2018


Being in pain every day is the reality for one in five adults worldwide. In The Netherlands, this means there are over 2.7 million people living with chronic pain. And it’s starting to lead to an opioid epidemic, caused by our overly somatic view of chronic pain and lack of alternative treatments.

Margryt Fennema and Louis Zantema are in search for an alternative. As a medical psychologist, Louis is confronted with chronic pain patients every day: “If you look at the research on chronic pain, you’ll notice pain has a huge psychological component. In fact, a ‘sense of danger’ is a bigger contributor to feelings of pain then tissue damage itself. That’s why education and psychological interventions can actually decrease feelings of pain – but unfortunately this knowledge is not wide spread and not many psychologists focus on treating pain problems. Because of this need, we decided to focus our innovation research on this particular problem.

With Margryt contributing as a design research specialist, they made an extensive research about the way patients experience pain and possibilities to create pain relief in new and innovative ways. After a lot of qualitative research, virtual reality came out as a promising technology. Margryt says: “In design research, empathizing with the patient is the most important first step. We often come up with top-down innovations that might fulfil the researchers dreams, but not those of the patients. The same thing happened with Louis, when we started he had already thought out the dream therapy of every pain psychologist – but when we tested several aspects of this potential therapy, many of them turned out to work completely different when tested on patients. For example, all patients we tested had difficulties with the setup and controls of the more expensive VR headsets, which wasn’t a good sign if we wanted patients to use the intervention at home.” Eventually, in a cycle of prototype testing and adjustments, Margryt and Louis developed an easy to use VR-therapy that provides patients with education and actively teaches patients how they can decrease the sense of danger for themselves, and with that their pain.

To develop the product, Margryt and Louis came to the EIT Health co-financed Student Venturelab Weekend, a Groningen e-labs activity led by University of Groningen Centre of Entrepreneurship. Student Venturelab Weekend is a 3-day-long event where aspiring student entrepreneurs can find out if their start up ideas are viable. During the weekend, Louis and Margryt could form a larger team and use the input of this team to advance their idea, product and strategic approach for their business. The team took a second place at the Student VentureLab Weekend and got an invitation to join the business accelerator program of VentureLab International North. 

VentureLab International North is a one year business development programme that focuses on all aspects of entrepreneurship and is, among other things, specialized in start-ups in the field of health. The programme of VentureLab North is also supported by EIT Health. Louis: “For us, this program is extremely valuable. Thanks to the information, coaching and the network of VentureLab, we can develop our virtual therapy even better and faster. Developing a new pain relief involves many different facets: finance, design of the therapy, creating a business model, gather knowledge, build on a network and so on. The VentureLab program helps to develop knowledge and skills for these areas. It helps us to find out what is needed to get ahead with Vrelief”.  (VRelief is currently known as Pain RelieVR)

According to the current schedule the first version of the RelieVR game will be launched for patients of pain clinics by the end of 2019. For 2020, the goal is that patients can work with the virtual pain relief at home. Margryt and Loui cannot wait to finally offer effective pain relief to the many patients with chronic pain.: “We continue to develop in order to be able to deploy Vrelief as quickly and effective as possible!

What’s singular?

Uniqueness of the company

  • Patented innovation
  • Innovative approach to pain relief

Success of the activity:

  • Stimulation of student entrepreneurial mindset
  • Multidisciplinary teams
  • Valorisation of the university research, technologies
  • Business creation
  • Cross-pillar integration

Social impact

  • Reduction of pain killer / opiate consumption
  • More efficient overall therapy for chronic pain
  • Taking healthcare home – possible for home application.

EIT Health KPIs

  • New graduates of EIT labelled programmes
  • Start-ups created by EIT Labelled MSc & PhD students/graduates
  • New/improved services/products/processes launched on the market
  • Start-ups created as a result of innovation projects
  • Number of start-ups supported by KICs
  • Investment attracted by start-ups supported by KICs
  • External participants in EIT RIS programmes

EIT Health support

VentureLab Student Weekend is supported by the E-lab activity started with EIT Health funding in 2016

Knowledge Triangle Integration

Knowledge integration triangle is at the heart of the activities of University of Groningen Center of entrepreneurship: as engaged scholars we believe in excellent research, education and community engagement through value creation. In this case UoG research, education to students and business creation have come together.