‘Grit International Female Accelerator represents a great opportunity for female entrepreneurs active in or aiming at areas of healthcare and life science to gain knowledge and build-up competence when it comes to entrepreneurial expertise’. Q&A Hrvoje Belani, Grit Board Member & Accelerator Industry Expert

Hrvoje Belani speaks to us about his current role in e-Health at Ministry of Health, Croatia and his role as a Grit board member and industry expert to the programme.

Hrovje will be speaking at our “Meet Our Industry Experts” webinar on Tuesday 10th February 2022 at 11am-12:00pm GMT

Please tell us a little about yourself and your role as Head of Sector for IS Implementation and Improvement at Directorate for e-Health at Ministry of Health of the Republic of Croatia.

I work in Croatian Ministry of Health for the last four years, but have more than ten years of working experience in e-health as a software engineer, ICT expert and project manager in national and international projects. I have represented Croatia in various international, EU-funded projects, like epSOS, INCA, EXPAND and ASSESS CT, which set the ground for e-Health Digital Service Infrastructure (eHDSI) advancing among EU Member States in the last years. Besides maintenance and upgrade of central national e-health solutions, we are working hard within the Directorate for e-Health in the areas of e-health cybersecurity, information standards for healthcare and certification of digital health solutions, shaping both legislative and organizational frameworks to offer high quality ICT support and digital transformation to healthcare delivery in Croatia. At the crossroads of multiannual EU funding periods, we are also in charge of aligning, coordinating and delivering contributions to different strategic plans and frameworks, from the National Development Strategy 2020-2030 and Health Development Plan 2021-2027 to the Recovery and Resilience Plan 2021-2026.

What is a typical work day like for you?

In the circumstances of global COVID-19 pandemic in the last two years, there is no more such thing as a typical work day. Representing Croatia in eHealth Network, which is an EU body gathering all Member States representatives. I have been participating in almost daily meetings of Coordinated Actions that work tirelessly on building interoperable EU-level systems to fight COVID-19, such as exposure notification and warning apps and EU digital COVID certificates. The latter system has been growing outside the fully covered EU and currently 33 third countries and territories around a world have built their systems using same specifications and technical guidelines, and legally aligned to join EU Digital COVID Certificate system. Besides the regular work in the areas described in the previous answer, it is not foreign to me to offer end user support for citizens and explanations to media, all having to live-through sometimes-complicated rules and measures on COVID-19.

How is Croatia currently supporting women entrepreneurs working in digital health and life science?

Besides the regular work scope of the Governmental Office for Gender Equality of the Republic of Croatia, as well as the Ombudsperson for Gender Equality, there is a number of academic and business initiatives promoting education and empowering women working in ICT and digital businesses. To name just a few: there is a “Women in Engineering” Affinity Group of the IEEE Croatia Section, publishing their ŽensCast podcast on women in STEM regularly; “ICT Supergirls” societal initiative as the part of ITU’s Girls in ICT Day; recently launched “Women in Technology” project by The Digital Health Association; the leading Croatian research and educational institution in the fields of electrical engineering, ICT and computing recently adopted their Gender Equality Plan 2021-2025; the premiere edition of the Women in Tech Balkans Summit took place in Dubrovnik last July, etc.

Several examples particular for digital health and life science managed by women – newly launched HealthHub.hr think tank, AI4Health.Cro not-for-profit public-private consortium, new Directorate for e-Health within the Ministry of Health, IT sector within Croatian Health Insurance Fund, etc.

Interestingly, longitudinal analysis published at the end of 2021 shows that Croatia scores above the EU-27 average in the share of employed female ICT specialists in the ICT sector’s total employment, aged 15 to 74, from 2004 to 2019.

What is your thoughts on the Grit International Female Accelerator and why did you decide to get involved in the programme?

Grit International Female Accelerator represents a great opportunity for female entrepreneurs active in or aiming at areas of healthcare and life science to gain knowledge and build-up competence when it comes to entrepreneurial expertise. This program aims to offer contemporary in-sight in both hard- and soft-skills, by delivering learnings in leadership, investment, market fit and challenges, digital governance, cybersecurity and AI. My motivation to get involved was a professional challenge to contribute to the fresh and unique educational program, as I have also worked in academia for seven years and currently hold adjunct senior lecturer position at the VERN’ University, Zagreb. I find Grit to be a huge chance for female entrepreneurs at no participation cost and no equity taken, opposite to some other accelerators.

As an industry expert-what topic will you be delivering?

I will be delivering a module on cybersecurity and asset protection for start-ups, which consists of two-day lectures and a two-hour workshop. Cybersecurity is essential to be approached by-design when developing digital solutions in general, and as healthcare is being even more targeted by perpetrators, it is of crucial importance to have it as a constituent part of product development roadmap. In order for emerging digital health solutions to function and prosper in real life environments, regulatory frameworks for cybersecurity and data protection have to be applied, as well as the rules for classified information management when it comes to privileged assets.

How important is it to gain cyber security awareness and create a cyber security culture within your organisation?

Security vulnerabilities, threats and risks inherently exist in digital solutions using various modern technologies of today, from web and mobile to Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence, and they should be mitigated and managed in order to establish proper protection and maintain resilience. One of the weakest links – humans should gain cybersecurity awareness and enterprises should create and cherish cybersecurity culture, as well as information security hygiene in general.

What excites you about digital health in the future?

It was exciting to hear the news that just recently an autonomous drone helped save the life of a cardiac arrest patient in Sweden by delivering a defibrillator on-site before the arrival of the ambulance. There are many areas in healthcare and wellbeing offering both mature and promising digital solutions, from personal monitoring via sensors and e.g. biowearables to clinical AI solutions for image processing and decision support during surgeries and combined medicines intake. Another emerging technology is 3D bioprinted skin that can be used to treat chronic wounds. There is literally no area where digital and other supporting technologies cannot contribute to making life easier, treatment safer and more efficient and even prevent from illness taking a swing. This is a great motivator for all of us working in health in any way to contribute professionally to future advancements of healthcare and wellbeing.

What advice would you give to women entrepreneurs who want to scale their business in 2022?

Build upon the current knowledgebase of both technological and scientific contributions, but do not be afraid to disrupt previously known processes for the greater benefits in terms of efficiency and effectiveness for the users. Pivot your prototypes towards real users’ needs, do not neglect the ethical side of your solution, make them safe and secure, and shape a reasonable business model out of which your product will reach the largest possible number of users. Nurturing integrity and transparency is the only way forward; it will be appreciated by the users and accepted by the market. Learn from open data, use open and free technologies and give back to the community as much as you can.

Any final thoughts?

I would like to thank the great Grit board members of the program for the inspiring cooperation so far, and I am sure we will all do our best to make Grit International Female Accelerator a success!

Hrvoje Belani’s email and social media handler

E-mail: hrvoje@belani.eu

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/hrvojebelani/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/hrvojebelani/ 

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