Design Healthcare Innovation is the result of a research project started in 2017, developed alongside Sanofi with the support of Fondazione Politecnico. Its main goal was to build a theoretical framework and a methodological structure in order to identify, map, and systematize projects and innovative product-service experiments able to illustrate the ongoing transformation of the healthcare field in Italy.


This research activity was later extended to involve several subjects who are the main characters of this transformation: patients and their associations, caregivers, institutional scientific research facilities, university spin-offs, medtech start-ups all the way up to the huge network of manufacturers in the biomedical field, and also new entities, such as makerspaces and Fab Labs, which have officially become part of this transformation.


All that has made it possible to devise an overall scenario of transformation of the healthcare field and its main directives: from the dissemination of digital technologies capable of enabling the transformation of custom products and services, up to the increasingly important role of patients in healthcare innovation processes. As a matter of fact, the latter volunteer ever more frequently as active subjects (think of the patient innovation phenomenon) who, often starting from an individual need and collaborating with other subjects, are able to trigger innovation processes that will later impact the whole community.


This research has ultimately made it possible to shape and graphically view the whole of subjects and solutions of the healthcare system (the Ecosystem) and the design project underlying the development of new products (the Ladder).

The Ecosystem

Through the Ecosystem the scenery of contemporary healthcare can be seen as a complex whole within which there are three main, often converging areas: research and scientific care, development and new manufacturing (also digital), and finally people with special needs, patients and caregivers.

Move your mouse over the areas to view the categories (and number) of actors

These three main fields intersect outlining four overlapping areas; the central area comprises the patients' needs and requirements, the responsibilities of institutional care and scientific/technological research, and the resources of new enterprises involved in designing, prototyping, and manufacturing products and services. This central core is called Area MakeToCare.


Outside the Ecosystem there are two concentric areas where we find those subjects who, though not strictly connected to the healthcare sector, contribute by supporting (Enabling System) or managing it (Policy Level).

The Ladder

Through the Ladder it is possible to analyze projects that stem from an early, often individual concept, and develop into a comprehensive solution intended for more end users, within a wider innovation perspective. In fact, the generative phase often takes on the dimension of an individual experiment aimed to meet a strictly personal need. 

Move your mouse over the areas to view the steps of the entire process

The Ladder graphically displays the development process necessary to translate the solution from the individual into the collective, shared plan, until it is ready to be placed on the market and consequently available to multiple end users. Thus, this tool synthetizes the path from idea to market divided into four main phases: concept, development, testing, and distribution.

Ideally, the Ladder also displays the degree of development (or maturity) of the solution from a project-oriented and distributional point of view, through the following steps: concept, prototype, single product (also released under a cc license), marketed product (for free or internal use).