W21C Digital Health Collaboratorium

W21C Digital Health Collaboratorium – A Health Innovation Platform Partnership

About the Project

W21C is creating a Digital Health Collaboratorium, a full-service delivery platform designed to further enhance support for digital health innovators on their pathway to commercialization. This new platform funded through the Alberta Innovates Health Innovation Platform Partnerships (HIPP) program is supporting initiatives across the province focused on building digital health-related products and services, including the collaboratorium and three others at the University of Calgary.

Since its creation in 2004, W21C has provided research and validation services designed to improve the efficiency and safety of health care systems. By working with health innovators — academics, start-up companies, industry, and public sector partners — W21C has recognized the challenges they have in getting their innovations to market.

The Digital Health Collaboratorium will create a cohesive ecosystem for digital health innovators to increase the success of scaling and spreading digital health innovations within Canada.

Investigator: Dr. Chad Saunders, PhD


The innovation pathway is complicated, and digital health innovators are faced with challenges navigating product development, market fit, regulatory compliance, and business readiness. A study with digital health ecosystem stakeholders was undertaken to better understand the opportunities, gaps, and challenges for digital health innovators in Alberta.

Through semi-structured interviews posing questions around five assumptions, the study found that digital health innovators:
1) Struggle to access real problems. Better understanding and access to clinical needs as well as the current products and procedures being utilized by health systems are a priority.
2) Struggle to access relevant data. Better access to health and administrative data would be useful in refining innovation. Currently, navigating ethical and privacy concerns around data are difficult.
3) Struggle to understand where to start and where they need to go on their innovation journey. Better resources aiding with common problems such as obtaining funding and talent as well as better coordination between ecosystem support partners would help accelerate innovation.
4) Finding appropriate training as available options do not adequately meet their needs. Innovators’ training needs are ubiquitous and diverse, highlighting the need for a customized referral process and improved collaboration between existing training providers.
5) Lack a ‘space’ to evaluate their offerings. Innovators face confusion with navigating the validation requirements needed to move into a clinical setting. Better understanding of these requirements and easier access to appropriate clinical settings would be beneficial.

These findings emphasize key needs of the digital health ecosystem in Alberta which further support efforts can target to help foster innovation in the province.


With the creation of a digital health collaboratorium, this project will:

  • Enable the success of digital health innovators by providing services and utilizing our extensive network to help them scale.
  • Grow the digital health sector in the province to aid Alberta’s economy in becoming more globally competitive,
    diversified, and sustainable.
  • Connect health system stakeholders, end users, and innovators to address and prioritize health system needs.


For more information on this project, please contact Shane Virani.

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