Forging Finnish Innovation — Full Transcript
Why the Nordic country is able to transform healthcare
Team Finland Health and Finpro Program Director, Eero Toivainen, discusses the wealth of tech resources in Finland and why the country is a hotbed for health innovation.
Key takeaways from this episode of StartUp Health NOW can be found here.
[00:05] Unity Stoakes: Welcome to StartUp Health Now! The weekly webcast that celebrates the healthcare transformers and change makers reimagining healthcare. My name is Unity Stoakes and today we have a special guest from Finland. Eero Toivainen. Who’s the program director of Team Finland Health. We’re going to be talking about the digital health landscape in Finland, why it’s a hotbed for health innovation, and we’re also going to be talking about the StartUp Health partnership in Finland and why we are launching StartUp Health Finland. Stick around, it’s going to be a great show.
[00:34] [intro music]
[1:14] Unity Stoakes: Hey, Eero. Great to be here. How are you?
[1:16] Eero Toivainen: Thank you, very well. How are you?
[1:18] Unity: Good, so we’re at the Health 2.0 conference here in Santa Clara, and it’s really quite impressive. The Finnish delegation seems like there’s 30 companies, maybe 70 people in the delegation here from Finland?
[1:33] Eero: That’s right. This is one of the biggest, kind of project we are doing right now
We have been trying to do this big project somewhere, and we have selected this one.
[1:45] Unity: It’s very impressive I think, I’ve had the opportunity to visit Finland and I was very inspired by all of the opportunity there. Maybe if you could just share with the audience why Finland is becoming a hotbed for digital health innovation today and what some of the trends are that you’re seeing?
[2:08] Eero: Okay, we all know the drivers. They are this kind of elderly population and of course of healthcare. But at the same time, there’s kind of home care and self care is increasing.
[2:25] Why Finland is right now this kind of unique place is because we are quite small country, 5 million people. It is easy to get access to people and access to ecosystems.
[2:38] We have 2 different ecosystems as well as you have. We have this pharma industry and we have this kind of health industry and now in this new world these two industries would like to co create this kind of solutions, for example, having this kind of apps for medicine and drugs and also this kind of genomic, genomics will bring this kind of innovation quite close to pharma.
[3:07] Unity: That’s one of the things I noticed when I was there, I think, I don’t know what percent of the country, there’s a big biobank there, and I think something like 90% plus have already had their genetic test done or something?
[3:20] Eero: Yes it’s not only the biobanks. We have this kind of very, very good biobanks. But what we have additionally is this kind of clinical reference data up to 40 years for our people.
[3:35] Unity: So there’s a historical
[3:37] Eero: Historical, but also we have all this kind of drug usage. So we have this kind of because they are reimbursed, and drugs are being free. So we know exactly how people have used drugs. So you can for example, do this kind of register research and take for example, at samples and look at what kind of genomics and what type of clinical records people have.
[4:03] Unity: The other thing, when I was there, I noticed there’s, you’ve got all these mobile engineers that are coming out of Nokia for example, It seems to be a lot of those, that talent pool, either on the engineering side, but also from academia the research side, clinical side, are now focusing on health and health care. Is that a big trend that you’re noticing?
[4:28] Eero: That’s true. Exactly, so we have this Nokia cluster as we call, and this kind of mobile technology experts and a lot of tech people. And they are looking at these trends and looking these digital health applications, and would like to do something that side to improve this kind of quality of care.
[4:52] Unity: So where are the main innovation hubs within Finland?
[4:47] Eero: There are of course near this university. We have 5 university hospitals in Helsinki and Turko, Tampere, Oulu and Kuopio so I would say, this kind of research is done there and we have a lot of these kinds of tests for reasearch.
[5:19] Unity: This really started out of the universities. Is it growing beyond that, to commercialize at this point?
[5:25] Eero: Yes, we are working in that direction. It will be easier to commercialize this research work and doing this kind of, how to improve that process. We are doing a lot of efforts in that side.
[5:42] Unity: Well one of the things we’re excited about is the opportunity to bring StartUp Health to Finland.
[5:49] Eero: That’s right.
[5:50] Unity: I think it’s a really important opportunity for us but also the ecosystem. What are your thoughts on that and why do you think it’s important for our organization to be coming to Finland and how we’re sort of linking, bridging the gaps between the different markets?
[6:09] Eero: What Finland is looking for, for our corporation is that it will make our innovations and research and startups well known, world widely, and all this kind of, creating this kind of corporation, and opportunities between the matchmaking companies. So we have on research side, we have, this kind of genomic side, but also all of this kind of doing this kind of, for example, preventing health, pilots, nationwide. So we have 5 million people, it’s easier to do that kind of pilot for example in Finland.
[6:51] Another one is innovation and open innovation and we have that kind of clusters like gaming areas.
[6:59] Unity: RIght, with Supercell,
[7:01] Eero: Supercell and we are hoping that we are able to create this kind of wellness applications and preventive applications from that ecosystem.
[7:12] Unity: Yeah, I think there’s this great opportunity to, if you have all this wonderful innovation there, but to extend it and really bring it to other markets.
[7:23] I think there’s going to be a lot of interest, from industry, and from investors here in the U.S. to get access to that type of innovation.
[7:33] What are you most excited about? I met probably 20 companies you introduced me to last night here at Health 2.0, all from Finland. What are some examples of types of innovation that’s exciting you or that you think is coming out of Finland today?
[7:54] Eero: Of course there’s big data. We all know that from that sector we have a lot of this kind of startups. But besides that, I think also in detection of disease is what we have for example quite impressive screening, this kind of nationwide screening. And for example, this kind of using, ultrasound in osteoporosis apps, screening
[8:27] Unity: For monitoring
[8:24] [cross talk]
[8:29] Eero: Then of course in this kind of wellness and prevention side, but maybe also this kind of self care and this kind of wearables where we have for example GE Healthcare as an example when they bringing in this kind of, all this vital signals monitoring small, scanning and sensing devices.
[8:51] Unity: Right, We’re very excited because we are actually going to be part of the Health Village there, near GE. In Helsinki. It’s really amazing, I’ve noticed there’s several areas throughout Helsinki and really throughout Finland where these startup ecosystems are merging. Maybe talk about some of the main ones that have been developing.
[9:20] Eero: Yes, we have this GE Health Innovation Village. We are very proud that GE selected Helsinki to set up the first Innovation Village there. We also have this kind of health spa and startup sauna.
[9:39] Unity: I first thought I was going to a sauna or a spa and then it was a very cool startup ecosystem there.
[9:44] Eero: that’s right. Those are the, maybe, this kind of biggest ones in Helsinki. But those and all, we have a extremely good ecosystem there.
[9:56] Unity: So, is one of your goals to also use Finland as, or leverage Finland as, a place to bring innovators to come there?
[10:08] Eero: Yes
[10:09] Unity: And use it as almost a testing ground for new innovation?
[10:14] Eero: Yes, as you know, we have already Slush with this one very good branding
[10:21] Unity: And that’s, for people that don’t know, that’s a huge industry organization similar to SXSW here in the U.S.
[10:28] Eero: Ok.
[10:29] Unity: Very impressive, it’s in November, right?
[10:33] Eero: It is in November, it is the darkest time in Finland because are quite north, Europe. We have all the lasers, they have wired all the lasers and there’s lights for all of us.
[10:44] Unity: It’s a big party.
[10:45] Eero: It is a big party.
[10:48] Unity: So, from your perspective just looking out maybe 5 or 10 years from now, how do you define success? What would you love to see, not just with our partnership, but for Finland overall and the innovation ecosystem overall? What would be a big win?
[11:10] Eero: I think what is our short term range with working with you, is we are hoping our startups would be the same level as your startups. So they would be U.S. market ready. As quickly and as..because right now it takes quite a lot of time for them, let’s put it in that way, that they are at the same level as the U.S. startups.
[11:43] So I would say that is this kind of short term assignment.
[11:49] Unity: Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for entrepreneurs today that are in Finland.
[12:00] And you spend a lot of time here in the U.S. market for example. What would your advice to those startups be, to really get going and take those first steps to coming and commercializing in other regions?
[12:16] Eero: I think it would be very important to find a partner. Right partner, to do the work together.
[12:24] I’m hoping that the best ones find you as one of the partners. We are in Europe and it is different market over here. So you have to be here. You have to be presence here in U.S. if you are going to succeed over here.
[12:42] Unity: I know one of the things your personally passionate about is a focus on prevention and innovation going on in those areas.
[12:51] Is that something that you’re seeing a lot of focus on in terms of what startups are doing at the early stage? Either new technologies or new solutions coming out of Finland?
[13:05] Eero: Yes, I think prevention is actually quite a big challenge for all of us. I think it will be, I don’t know, 80% of all the, all this kind of effects we, impacts we are able to make for making you healthy.
[13:23] It’s not only this kind of health care stuff but all this kind of nutrition and lifestyle,
[13:30] Unity: The full lifestyle.
[13:31] Eero: Full lifestyle. And I would say this kind of food is very, very important and that is one of kind of challenge is how to guide people to eat more healthier and how to change your habits.
[13:44] That is extremely difficult, it’s even more difficult than this kind of monitoring of your heart, pulse or something like that.
[13:55] Unity: Wonderful, so just to finish up here, what would you love for investors to know about the opportunity in Finland. I was very inspired by many of the things I saw there and really see it as a hotbed of innovation, quite honestly. And for a lot of different reasons, seems like a perfect ecosystem to test and experiment and if it can work there, bring these solutions to other parts of the world. What would you like investors to know about Finland and what’s going on?
[14:29] Eero: One thing I would like to add is that our government is also backing quite heavily these startups.
[14:39] Unity: Through Tekes.
[14:40] Eero: It is through Tekes. It is this kind of national fund agency and they were able to grant loans and other benefits from their funding, funding from there. So if you decide to invest in Finland, I think we are able to invest also in this kind of national, this kind of..
[15:02] Unity: It’s almost a partnership.
[15:03] Eero: It is a partnership.
[15:06] Unity: Well fantastic. well thank you for being here, we’re looking forward to being in Finland, and lots of good things to come, so thank you.
[15:13] Eero: Thank you very much indeed.
[15:15] Unity: Thank you, and we’ll see you next week.