Towards its participation at the 4YFN 2024 Digital Health Programme, Biocat is looking back over the evolution of the digital health subsector in Catalonia.
Although a young market, it is mature in terms of securing investment and technology diversity. In healthtech - including medical technology and digital health companies – it is ranked ninth among cities in Europe and the Middle East in investment.
Barcelona ranked eighth in Europe
The COVID-19 outbreak accelerated the number and investment in healthtech companies around the world, as well as increasing demand for remote solutions, rapidly expanding ICT infrastructures and heightening awareness of physical and mental wellbeing among the general public. This exponential growth has also been seen in the BioRegion, the life sciences and healthcare sector in Catalonia, where Barcelona is ranked ninth among cities in Europe and the Middle East with some of the biggest rounds of investment in healthtech, surpassed only by London, Paris, Cambridge, Berlin, Stockholm, Tel Aviv, Munich and Oxford. In Europe, the Catalan capital is ranked eighth.
Digital Health investments are on the rise
Digital health funding in 2023 equaled the all-time high of 2021 with €63 million, including significant operations like Qida (€18 million) and Iomed (€10 million). In 2020 and 2021, there were big operations, over €10 million, by scaleups like Koa Health, TopDoctors and Mediktor, all with international participants.
In fact, despite being the youngest subsector in the BioRegion, digital health is attracting more and more investment, and in bigger and bigger operations. While in 2014, all investment was from rounds ranging from €1 million to €4 million, in 2023 33% of investment was in operations from €15 million to €40 million.
A fast-growing and tech-savvy subsector
This subsector is made up of 212 companies and sees €475 million in turnover. It is growing at a faster pace than the others, despite being the youngest group of companies. In fact, each year approximately 20 new digital health startups are set up in Catalonia, and 95% of these companies have been created in the past 10 years.
The main types of technology these companies use include artificial intelligence (with techniques like machine learning and deep learning), virtual reality, big data, augmented reality and 3D printing. Artificial intelligence and virtual reality have received more investment than other types of technology.
Artificial intelligence in digital health
Artificial intelligence is a key driving force behind healthcare innovation with many applications, including managing chronic diseases, drug discovery and development, improving clinical trials, manufacturing and supply chains.
In the BioRegion of Catalonia, 19% of all startups and scaleups work with artificial intelligence, more than half of which are digital health firms. The main therapeutic areas of application are the central nervous system (CNS), oncology and mental health.
Regarding investment, these companies have raised over €250 million in the past 5 years, peaking in 2023 with €73 million. By subsector, medical technology and digital health firms attract the most interest from investors (€98 million and €92 million, respectively).
Main challenge: getting the healthcare system to adopt innovation
Catalonia is extremely attractive for creating and attracting digital companies in the life sciences and healthcare sector. International fairs like 4YFN, celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, have also helped put the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Barcelona and Catalonia on the world stage.
But adoption of this innovation hasn’t progressed at the same pace and the mechanisms and connections needed to explore, filter, identify, interact and incorporate these innovations into the system haven’t been well defined or developed.
To address this challenge, Biocat is working to orchestrate a system that will make it possible to track, register, identify, prioritize and support innovation developed in Catalonia for optimal incorporation into both healthcare centers and the comprehensive, integral sphere of the Catalan National Health System.
Biocat at 4YFN 2024
Biocat, alongside a selection of startups and key ecosystem stakeholders will be part of the Digital Health Programme at 4YFN24.
Head over to the Catalonia Health Innovation Ecosystem Pavilion (hall 8.0), coordinated by Biocat and TicSalut Social in collaboration with ACCIÓ, to meet some of these companies. View stand details here.