Interview Ton van der Steen
With an Erasmus MC rich in challenges and a TU Delft brimming with solutions, Convergence is both a necessary and a logical step forward. ‘It is an inescapable truth that technology is key in creating sustainable, viable and affordable health care.’
For Ton van der Steen, it all started in 1968 when a cardiologist, a heart surgeon and an engineer established the Rotterdam Thorax Centre and started doing exciting pioneering work. ‘Eventually, through Medical Delta, this led to this very close collaboration called Convergence. The social sciences of Rotterdam University play a vital role in getting the new technologies adopted by care givers and medical insurance companies.’
"Right now, it may take some meetings before they understand their various perspectives, but in five years’ time that will be a non-issue"
A collective dynamic is the hallmark of Health & Technology: think of an electrophysiologist, an astronomer and a biologist collaborating to unscramble the tiny currents in the heart, all learning from each other. ‘Right now, it may take some meetings before they understand their various perspectives, but in five years’ time that will be a non-issue. Engineers, physicians and social scientists will also have no trouble connecting, with Convergence Squares stimulating such encounters.’
With Convergence, the focus is shifting from developing proof-of-concept technologies to the whole path – from first idea to small-scale clinical introduction. ‘At the moment, less than 10% of innovations make it this far, typically taking 15 years to reach that point. Close collaboration with the social sciences will completely overhaul these dynamics.’ Commercial companies will be essential in making the subsequent step to large-scale clinical implementation. ‘For me, in five years’ time, the three campuses will host a bunch of start-ups, closely associated with physicians and engineers, speeding up translation.’
It is an inescapable truth that technology is key in creating sustainable, viable and affordable health care