Mike Harcourt (centre) former B.C. premier and AGE-WELL patron, with Surrey Centre Liberal MP Randeep Sarai (l) during the official launch of the new AGE-WELL Digital Health Circle Innovation Hub at SFU's Surrey campus.

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New national innovation hub to address aging challenges

January 18, 2019
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A new AGE-WELL National Innovation Hub unveiled this week at SFU's Surrey campus will address aging challenges through digital technologies aimed at improving seniors' quality of life. The hub will benefit from $3.5 million announced by Western Economic Diversification Canada during its launch.

The AGE-WELL National Innovation Hub: Digital Health Circle will bring communities and experts together to tackle age-related challenges, support partnerships to create real-world solutions, develop talent to meet the needs of B.C.’s tech businesses and help older adults in B.C. and across Canada live well. 
 
“Our aim is to leverage the extensive resources already established in B.C. to spur the development of technologies and services in the digital health sector,” says Andrew Sixsmith, scientific co-director of AGE-WELL and an SFU gerontology professor. “The new ideas that are generated and products created will benefit older people and caregivers right across Canada.”

The hub will also help B.C. companies, community and academic partners design solutions that fit the needs of their users and stakeholders. 

Leading the Digital Health Circle’s team of experts is Sylvain Moreno, an associate professor of professional practice at SFU’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT), who specializes in neuro-technologies related to interactive digital media and brain health solutions.
 
“The Digital Health Circle’s focus on translating knowledge into new technologies is essential for British Columbia to strengthen our research and innovation while growing the health technology sector in B.C.," says Moreno. "The hub will coalesce these objectives to deliver real impact and improvement to the aging population in B.C."

Sylvain Moreno, associate professor of professional practice, leads the Digital Health Circle Innovation Hub.

The hub’s leadership team includes Carolyn Sparrey, VP Research and Training, and an associate professor in SFU’s School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering (MSE), and Thecla Schiphorst, VP Design and Community Engagement, and a SIAT professor. 

The hub will improve design and user experience by championing interdisciplinary research within the university, uniting engineering, information technology, social sciences, humanities and mechatronics. It will connect multiple stakeholders beyond academia, such as government, health authorities, older adults, community groups, companies, and not-for-profits. 

“By training the leaders of tomorrow to be prepared to address the challenges of healthy aging, we will develop new talent that meets the demands of B.C. technology companies while driving economic growth,” says Sparrey.
 
Adds Schiphorst: “We need to empower communities through design thinking that includes individuals and groups in the design of rich, diverse experiences and innovative technologies.”  

Joy Johnson, SFU Vice President, Research and International, says: "The goals and objectives expressed by the AGE-WELL Digital Health Circle fit within the university's innovation strategy, SFU Innovates, seeking to enhance the ecosystem for collaboration and innovation among students, faculties, industry professionals and clinicians working in aging and technology. The launch of this facility celebrates the power of collaboration and partnerships."

Joy Johnson, Vice President, Research and International

Western Economic Diversification Canada's funding was announced by Randeep Sarai, Member of Parliament for Surrey Centre, on behalf of the Hon. Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Minister responsible for Western Economic Diversification Canada. 

“In this globally competitive ecosystem, it is vital we have organizations like the Digital Health Circle to foster innovation and unlock the full potential of Canada’s health technology sector,” said Sarai. “Not only will the Digital Health Circle create jobs and support Canada’s prosperity, it will also help improve the quality of lives for all Canadians.”

The Digital Health Circle is a joint initiative involving AGE-WELL, SFU and other B.C. post-secondary, government, industry and community stakeholders. In 2017, AGE-WELL national innovation hubs were also opened in Ottawa, focusing on sensor systems to address mobility and memory challenges, and Fredericton, to advance policies and practices in technology and aging.

Launched in 2015, AGE-WELL is a pan-Canadian network that brings together researchers, older adults, caregivers, partner organizations and future leaders to accelerate the delivery of technology-based solutions that make a meaningful difference in the lives of Canadians.