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Brian O'Connor

After growing up in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Brian developed his career as a consultant, manager and investor. He has worked in the UK, US and Hong Kong and has vast experience as a company director in a variety of industries.

He is currently providing strategic advice to Governments, International organizations and companies on the challenges facing healthcare in general and specifically on the Connected Health opportunity. He created the European Connected Health Alliance, a not for profit organisation which connections Governments, Industry,Research Institutes, Health Services, Patient Groups etc The Mission is to listen to the needs of patients and citizens and to introduce solutions, to provide better care.


Bleddyn Rees

Deputy Chair and Digital Health Society

Bleddyn is a vastly experienced commercial lawyer with 30 years experience of outsourcings, privatisations and complex contracting and projects. He has a unique CV for a private sector lawyer, having spent three and a half years on secondment as General Counsel of the Commercial Directorate of the Department of Health. On his secondment to the Department of Health he advised the Minsters (Prime Minister, Secretary of State, Ministers of State), Special Advisors and NHS organisations and gave evidence to the Health Select Committee and the Public Accounts Committee. Bleddyn has a very detailed understanding of the UK health sector and regulatory framework.

Beatriz Sanz
Communications and Event Manager

Bea is a dedicated Meeting and Event Planner with 15+ years experience in corporate meeting planning. She is a detail-oriented professional with strengths in event creation, planning and execution. Bea started her career at 19, working as an Event Project for a Hotel company while obtaining her University College of Tourism from University of Girona. After graduation, sheobtained a Master in International Relations and Opening New Markets from “Eserp, Business School”. Career highlights include working as part of the operational team of the eHealth Week 2010 international conference, working as Project Manager for 256ideas on their international projects.

Matt Grek
Digital Communications Manager

Matt joined ECHAlliance in October 2017. With 18 years’ of expertise in public-facing communications, he brings significant experience, knowledge and leadership skills to deliver strategic and impactful digital communications.

Previously at NHS England and the National Patient Safety Agency, Matt uses his creativity to develop innovative solutions to tackle the many challenges facing the health sector. Matt’s experience includes leading communications on the roll-out of the World Health Organization strategy for surgical safety in England and Wales and for the Chief Nursing Officer for England.

Matt’s skills cut across all the key functions and channels of integrated marketing communications, including: strategy and planning, influencing behaviours and campaigning, brand awareness and positioning, digital marketing and social media, event management and media handling (including major press conferences), stakeholder relations and employee engagement.


Heather Smith
Administration Manager

Heather manages connector administration and membership communications for the European Connected Health Alliance (ECHAlliance). Previously an Office Manager for a multi-national company Heather has over 15 years experience in administration. Based in Belfast Heather is involved on the ground with the Northern Ireland Ecosystem.  

Damian O'Connor
International Network of Ecosystems and Special Projects

Damian is COO at the European Connected Health Alliance (ECHAlliance), ensuring delivery of all aspects of day-to-day operations and providing strategic leadership to deliver the ECHAlliance vision.
He has also been driving the development of an International Network of Permanent Connected Health Ecosystems throughout Europe, to provide sustainable and structured opportunities for academia, patient groups, health & social care providers/payers and industry to meet and provide solutions to specific problems.
Damian gained 30 years of experience in British Telecom, with a background in service and customer management, efficiency challenge delivery, programme and business management.
In 2008, Damian set up his own Business Consultancy, providing clients with professional advice and support in business improvement and efficiency programmes, as well as providing training in leadership and management skills.
Paula Dougan

Operations Manager

Paula began her career at PwC, specialising in the healthcare sector. During her 8 years with PwC, she undertook performance reviews of services and value-for-money studies on behalf of the Department of Health, Social Services & Public Safety in Northern Ireland. Paula also worked with NHS Scotland and the Scottish Government on ‘Better Together’, Scotland’s National Patient Experience Programme, exploring patient experience of hospital and GP services.

As Operations Manager at the European Connected Health Alliance (ECHAlliance), Paula ensures the delivery of all aspects of day-to-day operations related to membership, ecosystems, European projects and strategic partnerships and events.
Paula is the ECHAlliance project lead for EC Funded projects GET – Global eHealth Transforming services and Readi for Health.



Tobias Gantner

Strategic Advisor

Tobias is a restless resident of different worlds, a roaming renaissance man: A medical doctor by training, a health economist and jurist by education, a philosophy aficionado by academic passion and curious by default. He has worked in a number of leading positions in hospital patient care and major industry companies such as Siemens, Novartis, Bayer Healthcare and Johnson&Johnson. Subsequently he followed his bliss and founded the ‘HealthCare Futurists’ (HCFs).

Tobias holds a number of academic appointments and is a sought after speaker in topics related to the future of health-care. He is on the advisory board for digital health in a number of institutions and is interested in digitalization and democratization in healthcare that both go along. Among his clients are major health-care industry players as well as newcomers to the market and start-ups.

He is currently approaching a professorship at the Fresenius University of applied sciences at Cologne campus for innovation in healthcare, design thinking and leadership in innovation.

Tobias is supporting the European Connected Health Alliance (ECHAlliance) in the fields of strategic advice as on how to develop ecosystems in Germany and how to support companies that want to establish business in Germany.






Prof George Crooks

Medical Director

Professor George Crooks is currently the Chief Executive of the Digital Health and Care Institute, Scotland’s national innovation centre for digital health and care. He leads an organisation that is tasked with delivering innovation in digital health and care that will help Scotland’s people to live longer, healthier lives and create new jobs for the economy. DHI provides opportunities for Scotland’s public sector, academia, charities and industry to co-design digital solutions to some of the country’s biggest health and care challenges.

He was previously the Medical Director for NHS 24 and Director of the Scottish Centre for Telehealth & Telecare. George was a General Medical Practitioner for 23 years in Aberdeen latterly combining that role as Director of Primary Care for Grampian. George is on the Board of the European Connected Health Alliance. He is currently a Board member and past president of the European Health Telematics Association, andis on the Board of the European Foundation for Critical Care. He leads the Integrated Care Action Group on behalf of the European Commission within the European Partnership for Active and Healthy Ageing.  He is Chair of the Scottish Digital Health and Care Innovation Programme Board, focussing on the adoption and delivery, at scale, of technology enabled care services across Scotland. He is also an adjunct Professor of Telehealth at the University of Southern Denmark.

He was awarded an OBE in the Queen's New Year Honours List 2011 for services to healthcare.



Joan Cornet

Director Digital Health Observatory and Coalition of the Willing

Technical Engineer, and Graduate in Psychology. After working as a Clinical Psychologist in a General Hospital, in 1979, he was elected mayor of Manresa (Spain). In 1988 he began his career as civil servant in the European Commission in Brussels, where amongst other projects he led EURES employment network. From 1994 to 1999 he was Secretary General of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament. In June of 2004 he was named General Secretary of the Department of Health of the Government of Catalunya. In September 2005 the Government requested that he start up the “Bioregion of Catalonia” (Biotechnology) and from January 2007 to May 2013 has been CEO of TicSalut Foundation (ICT Health).from the till April 2017 has been Director of “mHealth” at Mobile World Capital Barcelona.

Myriam Martin

International Project Manager

Myriam is specialized in the implementation and management of projects aimed to meet challenges in Health that can be solved with the use of ICT, spotting areas of opportunity for the development of profitable eHealth innovation, interacting with potential customers and end-users (healthcare managers, professionals, patients, etc.) and putting a strong emphasis on Business Modelling, in order to realistically address market opportunities in the eHealth space. She has the experience in providing entrepreneurs with the tools to ensure that their companies and start-ups have the leading edge, helping them to identify key focuses and provide them with a strategy to launch. She has managed several EU projects mainly aimed to support ehealth SMEs to shorten the go-to-market process, as well as to pave the way for the take up of eHealth by identifying the needs and, by addressing the eHealth policy challenges, promoting the development and upscale of eHealth solutions. Myriam graduated in 1992 in Economics and Business at ICADE (Pontifical University of Comillas) in Madrid, and is Master in Business in the European Community.

Andy Bleaden

International Projects Manager

Andy Bleaden has had long career in both funding and social care going back over 25 years and has been recently working in Greater Manchester at Stockport where he specialised in Adult Social Care, Robotics, Telehealth and Telemedicine, Regeneration and Dementia. He also formed alliances with pan European groups most recently with the EIP-AHA, Coral and Covenant for Demographic Change. 

In addition, he has also been working as an External Expert for the European Commission since 2013 and also with the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) on the new Health KIC and also working for the new Urban Innovation Actions as an expert.

He brings a wealth of experience and skills in securing and management of strategic external funding, procurement, innovation funding and forming and development large and complex partnerships across Europe. 

Gregor Cuzak

International Ecosystem Coordinator

Gregor Cuzak, MSc, MBA, has been one of the key organisers of the Slovenian eHealth ecosystem since 2014. He has partnered with all relevant Slovenian health stakeholders, as well as numerous internationally, such us Health 2.0 and ECHAlliance.

Gregor operates as a consultant on topics of business development, data analytics and marketing. His recent focus besides digital health has been GDPR, working as a business consultant to a Slovenian international IT security and services company called Ascaldera. 

Gregor's interest outside of business, and inclusive with his family with Eva, Maks and Ula, are hiking, skiing and sailing. He also has a keen interest in the arts. Gregor volunteers in several patient associations, lectures, coaches and helps his peers. Once, a long time ago, Gregor was a professional ballroom dancer.
Valentina Tageo

International Projects Lead

Valentina graduated in Political Economics and obtained a Master in European Project Management. Valentina has over 12 years’ experience in international project management and proposal writing under several funding programmes (e.g. FP7, H2020, INTERREG, URBACT, among others). 

She has been working as Research Project Manager at different healthcare, research and industry organizations (e.g. Technical University of Milan, IESE Business School, Badalona Serveis Assistencials, Ab.Acus srl and Open Evidence), as well as providing grant preparation and management services as independent consultant to public administrations like Barcelona City Council and the Catalan Agency for Health Information, Assessment and Quality (AQuAS). Valentina's fields of interest and research are digital health and social innovation and transformation of public services. 

At ECHAlliance she leads the International Projects Unit, coordinates the operational activities of the Digital Health Society initiative and designs the content of international events.

Lastly, Valentina recently funded a research and consultancy firm promoting digital social innovation in Barcelona (Wise Angle).

Alexia J. Zurkuhlen

(née Duten) PhD, M.A., B.A. 

International Projects Manager

Alexia studied Political Science (Service Public) at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques in Strasbourg and European Studies at Trinity College Dublin before pursuing a Masters in European Integration at the University of Hanover, Germany. She then completed her PhD at the University of Münster, addressing the role of civil society organisations in “Global health: stepping stone or stumbling block for the European Union?” (Nomos, 2015). 

Alexia worked as project manager, research fellow and consultant in France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States for regional and international health projects in North and Sub-Saharan Africa as well as Central Asia. She is fluent in French, German and English and is particularly interested in questions related to innovations in healthcare and the challenges and opportunities brought by digitalisation such as inequalities in the provision of health care and health literacy. Since 2016 she has been managing the limited company emanating out of the HealthRegion CologneBonn, an association with over 140 members of the healthcare industry, and is based in Germany.

Carina Dantas

International Projects Manager

Carina has 20 years of experience in the social and health care sector. She holds a degree in Law, post graduate studies in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, also in Addictions Intervention and she is a certified trainer.

Carina is Director of the Innovation Department of Cáritas Coimbra (Portugal) since 2011, responsible for strategic planning, projects, research and communication. She has written over 150 proposals for funded projects and managed/implemented many of them in the field.

Since January 2016 she has been elected Vice-President of the European Covenant on Demographic Change, and she is Main Coordinator of group D4 – Age-friendly Building, Cities and Environments of the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing.  Carina also coordinates the 2018 Thematic Network SHAFE - Smart Healthy Age-friendly Environments, approved by the EC and is a Member of the Standing Committee of Policy and Advocacy in the International Health Literacy Association.

She is specifically active, at a European level, on the matching between digitalization and end-user needs and has developed high skills on the assessment and compliance of ethical issues on ICT platforms, usability and easiness of use for people in frail conditions (e.g. older adults) and also on the development of pilots of digital tools, for instance, in H2020 projects. Carina actively produces research articles and documents and participates as speaker in several national and international events.


Federica Porcu

Junior Project Manager

Federica graduated in Political Science and International Relations and she obtained a Masters in Innovation Management. She has a strong background in European projects focused on innovation policies and stakeholder engagement.

Federica has experience in working with DG CONNECT, DG RTD, DG JUSTICE, JRC, EACEA and EIGE on various studies and projects, which have given her an in-depth understanding of European institutions and processes.

She also works as Research and Engagement Manager for Wise Angle, a company which offers research and consultancy services to public and private organizations working across a wide range of areas such as Health and Social Care and Science for Society, Rights and Inclusion, Government and Participation, Education.

From 2014 to 2018 Federica has been researcher and communication officer for Open Evidence, a spin-off from the Open University of Catalonia, where she conducted several studies for the European Commission and its agencies. She designed communication and stakeholder engagement strategies, as well as arranging conferences, workshops and seminars.

In 2011 Federica collaborated with the General Directorate of Statistics of the
Regional Government of Sardinia (Italy). Her main role was focus on the monitoring activity of European programs and the creation of summary reports for policy-making bodies and their offices.