Innovation Sprint is very happy to welcome the new member of the team, Harm op den Akker. Harm is the new Senior Researcher of Innovation Sprint and we asked him to tell us a few words about him and his background to get to know him better.


Hello everyone, my name is Harm op den Akker and I’ve joined the Innovation Sprint team in February of 2021.

I’ve been collaborating with Innovation Sprint and members of the team even before the company was founded, back in 2016. In my previous company Roessingh Research and Development , we collaborated in the EU FP7 project eWALL , where I worked with Innovation Sprint’s CEO Sofoklis Kyriazakos and the R&D Director Aristodemos Pnevmatikakis on building a digital eHealth hub for people with chronic conditions. After that, we continued our collaborations in the H2020 projects GOAL , the recently finished project Council of Coaches , and the ongoing project INFINITECH . After nearly 12 years of working at Roessingh Research and Development, it was time for a new challenge and I’m very excited to be able to contribute to a bright future for Innovation Sprint!

So, how am I going to try to contribute to Innovation Sprint’s future? Well, let’s start by saying a few words about myself. I grew up in the small village of… wait, let’s skip all that. I studied computer science and human-computer interaction at the University of Twente, after which I completed a PhD programme, focusing on personalised interaction in eHealth applications. As a PhD candidate, and later as a Senior Researcher at Roessingh Research and Development, I got the opportunity to work on many European research projects. Although challenging and exciting, those projects were not focusing on exactly what I believed to be the future of eHealth…

And so, in the summer of 2016, I started coordinating a project proposal exploring how a group of virtual embodied conversational agents could provide a fun and engaging way to council end-users towards a healthy lifestyle: The Council of Coaches. The proposal was accepted, the project started, and was completed with a final review in October of 2020. In my view (so take it with a grain of salt), the project was a big success. It resulted in many insights on how to use embodied agents in the context of health promotion, but also yielded two open-source technology platforms for building such systems: Agents United and the WOOL Platform .

So, coming back to the question: how am I going to contribute to Innovation Sprint? Well… virtual agents (mostly)! I’m excited to work with the team on the next generation Healthentia platform, focusing on virtual coaching for the digital therapeutics market. Besides that, in my position of Senior Researcher, I get to work on a range of exciting new innovative projects, including PHYSICS , iHELP , TERMINET , and RE-SAMPLE , while always looking for new opportunities to shape the next generation of eHealth applications.