Many — if not most — people were surprised by the U.K. vote to exit the European Union, a moved commonly referred to as the “Brexit.” When the 52-48 result of the vote was announced, the shock and concern crossed international borders, not just among EU countries, but worldwide. Many companies from various EU countries are involved in health technology and connected health innovation projects in joint studies and development projects. The big question in the minds of those involved in the multinational projects, especially those involving member countries of the United Kingdom was, “What happens now?”
Of course, it’s possible the U.K. won’t actually leave the European Union. There are several technicalities that have to be met for any departure, and after the shock of the vote receded, the first actions of some were to find ways to invalidate the vote, to vote again, or just ignore the whole thing and carry on. In any case, by most reports a Brexit “divorce” from the EU is likely to take at least two years. In the meantime, a large health technology collaborative group has issued its position on the matter.
The European Connected Health Alliance (ECHAlliance), Europe’s largest digital health membership organization, includes more than 25 countries, 500 organizations, and 15,000 individual experts. The organization has one very practical concern, in that it is a Northern Ireland registered Community Interest Company (not-for-profit). There may need to be a change of registration to another EU jurisdiction.
While the ECHAlliance has said it has no inside information or firm plans, it made the following statement: “When clarity is available we will stand ready to collaborate with you in whatever new arrangements are announced. Innovation knows no boundaries and the need for it in healthcare and social care is as great regardless of Brexit. The ECHAlliance has an increasing number of Ecosystems and members outside the EU and this can now include our UK members and Ecosystems. Perhaps for our UK members and Ecosystems, our role and work will be even more important to maintain and grow international links. So in confused and uncertain times, our message is that we and you have achieved much, with much still to do and together we will find ways to keep doing what we must for the benefit of all.”
The bottom line: technology development will go on, regardless of politics and border issues.