Business Opportunities for Health Ageing (Biz4Age) is cluster project funded by the INTERREG IVA 2 Seas Cross-border Cooperation Programme.

It brings together partners from two previous INTERREG IVA projects, “CURA-B” and “2 Seas Trade”, and other organisation that want to co-create regional economic growth and healthy ageing, and that share our core value which is to place the needs and dignity of citizens at the centre of social and technological change.

Our partners and collaborators are from the UK (Kent, Cambridgeshire), The Netherlands (Zeeland), Belgium (West-Flanders) and France (Nord-pas-de-Calais).

In Phase 1 (April 2014 – February 2015) we applied the combined results and expertise of CURA-B and 2 Seas Trade to the question of how to transform the challenges of ageing populations into regional business opportunities.

Our findings from Phase 1 are:

  1. Healthy Ageing: Regional challenges and strategic opportunities for smart specialisation

The challenges and opportunities of ageing populations are not just related to healthcare, but include other sectors too.  Moreover, rather than focusing on the elderly, we should orientate our regional economies towards healthy ageing as a lifelong process. Housing, food and tourism are three strategic areas that combine our regional priorities and strengths with opportunities to integrate healthy ageing with economic growth.

  1. Approaches: triple and quadruple-helix collaboration, catalysts, open innovation, and living laboratories

A variety of initiatives in our regions, including pilot studies undertaken in CURA-B, are creating economic growth and improving social welfare through innovative care solutions. From these initiatives we identified the following approaches as necessary for success: triple and quadruple-helix collaboration between knowledge institutions, businesses and public bodies; mechanisms to catalyse and sustain regional networks involving the many different kinds of stakeholders; ways of building trust for open innovation; user-led innovation through living laboratories that place the needs and dignity of citizens at the centre of social and technological change.

  1. SMEs: Challenges, support and engagement

SMEs can play a vital role in contributing to regional economic growth and healthy ageing.  However, they face a number of obstacles including: lack of knowledge about opportunities; lack of contacts; fragmented markets; conservative purchasers; and complex regulations and procurement systems. 2 Seas Trade developed and implemented a range of measures to support SMEs to trade across borders. However, additional, incentives are needed to engage SMEs with more future-oriented, strategic initiatives and induce them collaborate in regional triple helix consortia.

We disseminated our Phase 1 findings through a Special Issue of the 2 Seas Magazine, a Conference, and three Videos.

In Phase 2 (March 2015 – September 2015) our focus is on housing, which is one of the strategic areas we identified in Phase 1. Our goal is to explore how to support independent living in ways that are life-enhancing and fulfilling for residents and their families and carers, at the same time as creating business opportunities for regional economic growth.

We are taking forward and developing key regional initiatives, namely, the Zeeland Living Room, the Kent Integration Pioneer, and the concept of a “vital living environment”.  The core of our Phase 2 activities is three projects.

“ROOMforLIFE” initiates the process of translating the Zeeland Living Room’s unique approach to user-led innovation to a care home in Kent.

In “Vital Living Environment in Zeeland”, experts from VIVES University College Bruges apply their concept of a vital living environment to extend the Zeeland Living Room concept from individual dwellings to neighbourhoods.

“Co-creating Solutions for Independent Living” takes up the difficult challenge of engaging SMEs and other stakeholders in regional, triple-helix consortia in Kent.

Through these three projects we seek to reconceptualise the construction, design and social organisation of personal and shared accommodation and their surrounding neighbourhoods.