After over 18 months of planning and three digital events, the first-ever, in-person Brain Innovation Days, led by the European Brain Council, took place on 12-13 October in Brussels, Belgium.
Postponed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the two-day event was able to go ahead this year under strict sanitary measures and was a welcome reunion for the wider brain community, bringing together scientists/researchers, clinicians, industry, patients and patient representatives, policymakers, start-ups and many others working and interested in the brain space.
The event kicked off with a Welcome Reception on the Monday, 11 October, leading into a packed programme across two days filled with community application-led Breakout and Agora Sessions, Innovation Showcases, Business Panels and a policy-driven European Brain Summit, the latter organised in partnership with EBRAINS in conjunction to the Brain Innovation Days and the Human Brain Project Summit.
Day 1 – 12 October 2021
The Brain Innovation Days officially launched with a welcome from EBC President, Prof. Monica Di Luca, who reiterated the aims of the Brain Innovation Days to create synergies and showcase the importance of innovation in the brain space.
“It is crucial, in our opinion, that Europe sets bold targets aimed at accelerating brain research, reducing the societal impact of neurological disorders and mental ill-health. Now is the time to act.”
Monica Di Luca, President of the European Brain Council
The morning continued with a series of Brain Talks – concise, inspiring and thought-provoking presentations from speakers leading cutting-edge research or activities supporting innovation in brain science – including addresses by Prof Lars Edvinsson (2020 Brain Prize Winner), Dr Viktor Jirsa (Director of the Inserm Institut de Neurosciences des Systèmes), Dr Makarand Bagul (Cannabinoid Education 360), Simon Kohl (Kop science+ consulting) and Prof Marcello Massimini (University of Milan), on topics ranging from new frontiers in migraine research, virtual epilepsy treatment cannabis in medicine, optical brain imaging and detecting consciousness in unresponsive patients. All abstracts are still available here and recordings of the Brain Talks will be available to the wider public soon.
With a full afternoon of policy discussion ahead, the Brain Talks were only accompanied by a small number of parallel sessions: Agora Sessions and Innovation Showcases focused around teleneurorehabilitation, gender issues in neurology, smart insoles to improve gait and mobility in people with neurodegenerative conditions, a novel therapeutic target for Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease and bridging gaps in brain innovation; and two How-To Sessions on Entrepreneurship in Healthcare: from start-up to corporate (led by Brain Innovation Days Knowledge Partners, BlueHealth Innovation Centre) and How to Finance your Startup – Lessons from 10 years investing and coaching start-ups (led by Brain Innovation Days Knowledge Partners, Imec.istart).
“The main goal of the Brain Innovation Days was to put together academia, researchers, private companies, civil society representatives and patients, industry, investors, etc., and in this respect it has been a great success because the interaction has been excellent and extremely promising for future.”
Patrice Boyer, Vice President of the European Brain Council
After lunch, the European Brain Summit began, featuring representatives of the highest levels of research policy and brain science. Leading researchers and policy makers presented their vision of the future of European brain research in the context of the European Health Union and highlighted innovative solutions and latest technological advancements. Panels of renowned scientists and different societal stakeholders discussed worldwide collaboration and partnerships, technology and medical innovation, patient involvement, and the European Health Data space. A full event report of the Summit can be read here.
Day 2 – 13 October 2021
The second day began with a series of business-focused panels, Exploring Business Development: Neurology, Psychiatry and Unmet Needs, Business Development: Imagining, AI and Digital and Financing Brain Innovation. Moderated by Christian Suojanen, CEO of Brain Innovation Days knowledge partners, Broadreach Global, the interactive panels featured senior representatives from large healthcare, technology and pharmaceutical companies and leading European venture capital investors focused on or actively investing in brain-related innovations.
“What we want to see is an indication, like in CNS, of unmet needs. We want to invest in something that can really make a difference and where there is a clear unmet need.”
Raúl Martín-Ruiz, Partner, Ysios Capital
Across the venue and online, multiple Breakouts, Agoras and Innovation Showcases took place in parallel, covering a wide range of topics, including: Daily EEG for People with a Brain Disorder, Enhancing Treatment of Dementia with Cognitive Stimulation Therapy and Digital Innovation, an Evaluation and recruiter platform for cognitive neuroscience, Postoperative delirium- how to avoid 8 Million preventable dementias per year, NIMOCHIP: a microfluidic lab-on-a-chip for better diagnostIcs of nerurodegenerative diseases, Cannabis and the Brain, an Adaptive/Responsive Cranialized Brain Pacemaker, MindBot: a cobot platform to look after workers’ mental health, Living with absence epilepsy – a parent’s view on patient-driven innovation and Brain capital focused policies and investments. All session abstracts can be found in the programme.
Throughout the two days, an Exhibition Village also made up the heart of the venue, featuring a number of organisations featuring their work: VIB, Neurocenter Finland, Iconeus, EBRAINS, PIPRA, icometrix, belean.net and a booth featuring EBC and members FENS, EPA, GAMIAN-Europe and EANS. Coffee and lunch breaks were spread across the days in order to maximise networking and matchmaking opportunities for the attendees, a key aim of and opportunity provided by the Brain Innovation Days. During breaks, attendees were also encouraged to join a series of offered mindfulness sessions, a change-up from usual conference activities. Mindfulness meditation is a mental training practice that teaches us to slow down racing thoughts, let go of negativity, and calm both mind and body.
Additionally, participants had the opportunity to explore a selection of the Virtual Exhibition, Living with MS during COVID-19: A case for rethinking MS care in the EU, in person, with a selection of posters printed and on display in the venue’s Quiet Zone.
The two day event was brought to a close by Prof Patrice Boyer, Vice President of the European Brain Council, summarizing the key takeaway messages of the Brain Innovation Days and stressing the importance of continued collaboration for the better of brain research and brain innovation.
Stay tuned for additional videos and pictures to be made available from the event. Additional materials such as supporting articles and more can be found – and are constantly updated – on the Brain Innovation Days website.