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Hacking health challenges: Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS’ first European hackathon


This spring Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS (JLABS)  and Janssen Pharmaceutica NV steered the health track of Hack Belgium, the biggest hackathon in the Benelux region. Hack Belgium is truly an innovation festival with nearly one thousand entrepreneurs, students, innovators and thinkers getting together over three days with the aim to solve some tricky challenges. JLABS @ BE curated the Health Track Sick No More: Imagining a World Without Disease , and hosted two workshops: clinical trials innovation and preventing youth smoking, which resulted in seven fresh ideas for savvy potential solutions.


Maybe you’re already a huge fan of hackathons, but if the concept is new to you then you should know that it is an event where people come together with the aim to solve problems. I nnovative projects are started, out-of-the-box thinking is cultivated, and important contacts are made.

Hackers, including scientists, entrepreneurs, software designers, project managers, students and others, get together in groups to tackle set challenges and see if they can come up with some creative solutions. At the end of the event, the groups get a chance to pitch their ideas, which sometimes form the seeds for actual startups.

Hack Belgium is a good example as it’s all about bringing passionate people together and accelerating technological progress by creating a project that could make a difference in the real world.

This year’s edition took place over three days in Belgium, Brussels:

Day 1 was all about getting inspired by attending various workshops (like the ones from JLABS @ BE and Janssen Pharmaceutica NV ).

Day 2 the teams were formed, and participants were coached through some basics, like how to pitch and build a business plan.

Day 3 everyone finally had the chance to pitch their projects in front of a jury.

Why get involved in a hackathon?

Hack Belgium was unbelievably energizing for the entire Johnson & Johnson delegation to take part in! There are a few simple reasons why investing in hackathons is so rewarding. For JLABS @ BE, this event was a great chance to increase awareness of our Johnson & Johnson Innovation model in Belgium and beyond. The festival also gave us a chance to connect with some amazing people, both from the hacking community but also internally with people from our company.

So how’d it go?

JLABS @ BE and Janssen Pharmaceutica NV hosted two workshops attracting over sixty participants to tackle challenges around clinical trials innovation (with Kai Langel from Janssen’s Clinical Trials Innovation team) and preventing youth smoking (with Paul Klatser from the Johnson & Johnson World Without Disease Accelerator). Guenter Huhle, the Head of JLABS EMEA, was also the Curator of the entire health track, so he was kept super busy helping teams across the three days.

At the end of the festival, seven teams ended up pitching their brilliant ideas in front of an audience of experts, jurors and peers. They were then given feedback and advice on how to take their projects to the next level beyond Hack Belgium.


Now what?

One of the great things about Hack Belgium is that the fun doesn't end when the event finishes! To support the continued development of the innovation teams that formed in Brussels, there will be a follow-up pitching event on the 26 th of April, where teams that are still active and serious about their project have a chance to show off their improved pitch.

As a Hack Belgium partner, JLABS @ BE committed to offering some mentorship to the best teams pitching at this follow-up event, and explore any potential collaborations with the startups that will be formed.