Croatian Healthcare Startups Struggle With Barriers

Lauren Simmonds

croatian healthcare startups

April the 18th, 2024 – Croatian healthcare startups are faced with an array of obstacles, but high barriers continue to be among the most problematic burdens.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Josipa Ban writes, meet the Forward to Health Innovation programme, intended for Croatian healthcare startups that develop innovative solutions. It has now opened applications for the third generation, and anyone who wants to acquire and improve their entrepreneurial skills in a field that is constantly calling out for technological solutions can apply for the program until May the 8th, 2024.

“The programme is intended for teams and individuals in the early stages of development and for those who have experience in the healthcare sector. This includes those who understand its needs and problems and, based on this knowledge, want to offer a specific solution”, explained Filip Stipančić, a founder and partner in Smion, who along with the University in Zagreb, and with the support of the EIT Health community, is implementing the programme.

an unknown number of startups

During the six months of its duration, according to Stipančić, the selected teams go through the process of clinical and market validation, that is, the process of determining the problem and the demand for its solution. In addition, the regulatory framework is passed through, as this is very demanding in the healthcare sector. “In this part, through prototypes and tests, any given Croatian healthcare startup can confirm the value proposition of the future solution,” explained Stipančić.

The fact that out of the 26 teams that went through the programme, 14 of them, or more than half, entered the market shows that it continues to achieve some good results. However, Croatian healthcare startups operating in this niche and globally highly developed industry are fighting for their place on a very demanding market.

“The development of the Croatian healthcare startup scene is a slow one, especially compared to more developed markets. In such markets, the share of startups in healthcare is almost 20 percent. It’s a very popular sector with a high number of problems that need to be solved”, emphasised the founder of Smion.

The exact number of Croatian healthcare startups, or more specifically health technology startups, isn’t actually known because the total number of startups in the country in general isn’t known either.

remote labs

The role of Croatian healthcare startups and similar innovation is becoming more and more important because solutions combined with technology provide numerous answers in all segments of healthcare. This is the case from prevention all the way to diagnostics to treatment. That being said, with the Croatian healthcare system, which, is very good but slow and subject to political decisions, startups have a harder time accessing those who make the final decisions, and thus the possibility of implementing their solutions.

“When you don’t have enough success stories, individuals just aren’t motivated to try anything out because it seems to them that the barrier to even entering the scene is too high,” warned Stipančić.

With the Forward to Health Innovation programme, a team of people from Smion and the University of Zagreb is trying to remove some of the barriers and enable the greater and faster development of this niche industry.

It’s far from the case that Croatia doesn’t have solutions that have become very successful – it already has Meddox, an application for managing medical documentation. There’s also the remarkable Ronna, a robotic system for stereotactic navigation in neurosurgery developed at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Shipbuilding. In addition, there’s AI4Health.Cro, and the European Digital Innovation Centre (EDIC), which brings together the economy, healthcare institutions and public administration bodies.

The Forward to Health Innovation programme works to empower those who have ideas on how to advance and improve the Croatian healthcare system through startups and innovation. Ultimately, everyone should benefit from it.


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