Health club and Social clubs
Bridging research and application

Fitness trends
The carnosine content of the total muscle is closely
and positively related to the percentage of fast fibres
in that muscle.

A lot of research is carried out by researchers and clinical scientists in the field of sports science and fitness. These give rise to findings that could help improve performance of sportsmen, and the emergence of new technologies that help fitness enthusiasts meet their goals.

One such multi-disciplinary group at Ghent University, in Belgium, has decided to commercialise the results of its decades of work on sports and fitness technology. The university set up Victoris (Valorisation Centre for Technological Optimisation, Research and Innovation in Sports) to bridge the gap between basic research and its clinical applications in sports.

In December last year, a Victoris team travelled to New Delhi and Bangalore to explore possible collaborations in the domain of medicine and health care with academic, medical and government institutes in India. Dhananjay Sardeshpande caught up with Dr. Kristof De Mey, sports technology & business developer for Victoris. Excerpts from their conversation:

What is the agenda of Victoris?
Victoris is a multi-disciplinary group of Ghent University researchers and clinical scientists, with expertise in a variety of domains related to sport and technology. Each member aims to bridge the gap between basic research and its clinical applications in sports.

Victoris’ aim is to facilitate knowledge transfer activities and research collaboration with industrial companies and research institutions, offering unparalleled expertise and access to leading-edge equipment. Collaboration takes shape as R&D contract research, licensing of intellectual property, or other cooperative schemes.

Could you elaborate on that?
Ghent University is in the forefront of sport and rehabilitation research worldwide. Victoris represents more than 40 researchers (professors and PhD students) active in a diversity of sport topics for more than 40 years; enabling a multi-disciplinary approach to various challenges.

Victoris was founded in 2008 and its major accomplishment, in collaboration with Brussels University, was the spin-off of Spartanova. The third World Conference on Science and Soccer was successfully organized in Ghent in 2012. As a consequence, different research teams within Ghent University are now collaborating with teams worldwide to create valuable new services and technologies in fitness and sports.

The presence of high level scientists and top research equipment in our group, creates extensive possibilities for both the sports industry, federations, government, clubs, trainers, therapists and the athletes themselves. By tailored and efficient co-working, we strive to bring more of our research into practice.

Why India?
India is a country full of opportunities. It has a growing economy, an enormous market, a young population and a very large group of middle class consumers. Above all, its people show an eagerness to learn and a drive to perform.

In the health care sector we already see a trend towards innovative solutions to solve the gigantic needs particular to this country. To a large extent these are found in the use and development of new medical devices. India has at least 10 years of experience with e-health and is now initiating mobile health care in many states. We can learn from these experiences.

In the domain of models of health care systems, there is an openness to learn from Europe as well. Thus, India offers an enormous potential market for European devices, as well as opportunities for medical research and the development of new medical technologies.

What about your expertise in fitness and sports?
We have expertise in various domains ranging from bio-mechanics (companies like Nike and Li Ning have already benefited from our research), sports nutrition, injury prevention (we created a spin-off for that, Spartanova), rehabilitation (from spine to upper and lower extremity injuries), to engineering (vision systems and textiles) and sports analytics (spatio-temporal analysis) methodologies.

In the management of professional sport clubs, we offer concrete expertise in identifying talent through the use of non-medical MRI scanning. We also have a lot of expertise in the domain of youth talent detection (from the amateur to the high-level athlete) and development by various learning methods (from classic to game-based approaches). We also do a lot of work in the domain of physical fitness and health, ranging out more on a community level.

What about Muscle Talent Scan?
At present, the Muscle Talent Scan is offered at the Sports Medical Centre of Ghent University’s Hospital in Belgium. However, the team believes that foreign sport training centres, hospitals and clubs that have access to MRI scanning equipment may also benefit from the technique. Therefore, we are looking for partners that are willing to implement the technique into their talent identification and sports performance testing protocols.

What is the scope of opportunities you are looking at?
We are looking for companies and entrepreneurs that want to develop services and products that do not yet exist, but do need to get access to our scientific knowhow.

We are also interested in creating a social impact through sports. India needs programmes for physical education teachers about motivational learning. Another area we have identified, and where can help, is developing an online platform for physical education teachers and youth coaches, which they can use to teach ball games.

As far as health management goes, we would be happy to partner with relevant agencies to develop and evaluate health promotion programmes at the community level, especially in preventing obesity and dealing with diabetics.

How did your visit to Delhi and Bangalore go?
This visit focused on finding a new market for medical devices, technology and applications; establishing links with clinical and technological researchers for the development of new devices; and insights into the needs of the health care professionals here.

How did you fare on the sports front?
This was a touch-feel visit. I would like to meet more people during a second visit, focusing on various aspects of the sports and rehabilitation business in the country. I would be pleased to interact with various entrepreneurs, researchers, health care professionals, fitness studio chain managers, and even the Sports Authority of India, and associations of fitness trainers and sports coaches. My main goal is to find ways to solve each other’s problems, and tackle the challenging opportunities that we both see.

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