The FinnWell programme — making healthcare healthier and wealthier

21 December 2005

For many years Finland has built up a healthcare system to be proud of. Nonetheless, no society can rest on its laurels. The older, better informed and more demanding population is forcing big changes in Finnish healthcare as in the rest of the world. And one of the ways Finland will be able to deal with these changes is through activities such as FinnWell, one of Tekes´ biggest ever technology programmes.

Tekes, the National Technology Agency is the main public financing and expert organisation for research and technological development in Finland. Tekes finances industrial R&D projects as well as projects in universities and research institutes. Tekes especially promotes innovative, risk-intensive projects.

Tekes funds come from the state budget via the Ministry of Trade and Industry. It's budget is 400 million euros, which funds for 2000 projects annually.

“Technology programme FinnWell concentrates on healthcare and well-being,” says Kalevi Virta, Programme Manager of Navicre Oy. “We have two major tasks. One is to promote Finnish business and research related to healthcare technology. The other, more complicated task is to help develop the Finnish healthcare system and make it one of the best in Europe.”

Opportunities for companies

The technology programmes consist of research projects by companies, universities and research institutes, plus services that support companies’ business operations, such as shared visions, seminars, training programmes and international visits.

The technology programmes provide opportunities for companies to network and develop business expertise and skills in international operations. In the programmes they receive Tekes financing for developing products, production, service concepts and business expertise and also the very latest information about different areas of technology and business.

There are some 1,800 instances of corporate participation in the technology programmes every year and about 500 instances of participation by research units.

In 2005, a total of 25 extensive national technology programmes are under way.

FinnWell focus areas

In the FinnWell technology programme there are three areas of focus. The first area is Technologies for diagnostics and care. The object is to maintain and strengthen cooperation and create new business activity in the field through research.

Some strong examples of Finnish expertise include imaging and calculation procedures, neuro imaging, cardiological expertise, procedures related to light, bio signals, non-invasive surgical procedures, mastering clinical-chemical and bio-analytical measuring technologies, and expertise in chemistry.

“It is vital that we keep our know-how at the highest level and that Finland retains the right atmosphere for development. A number of Finnish companies are being bought up by international corporations and we want them to continue doing their research and development here,” says Virta.

Healthcare IT related products and services are the second area. This includes software in the health area, service and resource management systems and wireless solutions.

“Mobile technology and IT go very well together with the production of healthcare services. For example, this will allow new ways of using laboratory service, taking diagnostics right where the patient is located with a small device and getting quick feedback. We need to be able to connect the patient with the hospital or healthcare centre and help them in their care related processes, including self care in their own homes.”

The third area is about developing new procedures enabled by new technologies. The object is to create new business activities, promote cost efficiency of healthcare and improve its quality by developing cooperation between the public and private sectors.

“The tradition of taking care of the patient as a person is a good thing, but in the future more efficiency will become necessary. As the population ages, there will be more and more consumers and less and less care providers. You can’t just keep adding new hands to take care of the ever-growing number of consumers. We need new ways to handle the flow of patients, more efforts to use technology and industrial control methods to find out, for example, what causes bottlenecks in the system. There is nothing negative about being effective. The patient shouldn’t have to queue and or wait when he wants healthcare, and the caregivers shouldn’t have to work harder either, it’s the system that must get better,” explains Virta.

One unique thing about FinnWell compared to the earlier healthcare programmes is the inclusion of the public sector, which is the largest healthcare producer. Doctors, nurses and management will give their input to companies and research institutes. “This will generate new and interesting products, and is sure to generate real business ideas,” says Virta.


Tekes: www.tekes.fi/

The FinnWell programme

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