© 2019 The Author(s). Background: While the European Union is striving to become the 'Innovation Union', there remains a lack of quantifiable indicators to compare and benchmark regional innovation clusters. To address this issue, a HealthTIES (Healthcare, Technology and Innovation for Economic Success) consortium was funded by the European Union's Regions of Knowledge initiative, research and innovation funding programme FP7. HealthTIES examined whether the health technology innovation cycle was functioning differently in five European regional innovation clusters and proposed regional and joint actions to improve their performance. The clusters included BioCat (Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain), Medical Delta (Leiden, Rotterdam and Delft, South Holland, Netherlands), Oxford and Thames Valley (United Kingdom), Life Science Zürich (Switzerland), and Innova Észak-Alföld (Debrecen, Hungary). Methods: Appreciation of the 'triple helix' of university-industry-government innovation provided the impetus for the development of two quantifiable innovation indexes and related indicators. The HealthTIES H-index is calculated for disease and technology platforms based on the h-index proposed by Hirsch. The HealthTIES Innovation Index is calculated for regions based on 32 relevant quantitative and discriminative indicators grouped into 12 categories and 3 innovation phases, namely 'Input' (n = 12), 'Innovation System' (n = 9) and 'Output' (n = 11). Results: The HealthTIES regions had developed relatively similar disease and technology platform profiles, yet with distinctive strengths and weaknesses. The regional profiles of the innovation cycle in each of the three phases were surprisingly divergent. Comparative assessments based on the indicators and indexes helped identify and share best practice and inform regional and joint action plans to strengthen the competitiveness of the HealthTIES regions. Conclusion: The HealthTIES indicators and indexes provide useful practical tools for the measurement and benchmarking of university-industry-government innovation in European medical and life science clusters. They are validated internally within the HealthTIES consortium and appear to have a degree of external prima facie validity. Potentially, the tools and accompanying analyses can be used beyond the HealthTIES consortium to inform other regional governments, researchers and, possibly, large companies searching for their next location, analyse and benchmark 'triple helix' dynamics within their own networks over time, and to develop integrated public-private and cross-regional research and innovation strategies in Europe and beyond.
Health Research Policy and Systems