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Five From Finland

Healthtech investors love Finland

Discover why Finland’s health sector continues to attract significant praise from notable international investors.

Julia Bushueva

Finns take enormous pride in having the best healthcare system in the world. What other healthy characteristics of Finland attract the attention of those with their eyes on the prize?

Leading investors from all around Europe gathered together in Helsinki a few weeks back to meet 40 of the best European early-stage healthtech companies at the European Healthtech Investment Forum 2019. Digital health, medical devices and diagnostics, and personalised health were among the most trending topics.

Here is what you really need to know about why healthcare investors are keen to stay on the pulse of Finland.

1. Science meets practice

If you book a doctor’s appointment in Finland, you may notice from the title of your doctor that it is quite common to practise what you preach here – they can be both a scientist and a practising doctor. This results in progress where research and practice go hand in hand.

“You have a lot of institutions, like universities, that encourage both medical practice and research and development,” said Monita K. Mo, CEO at Ascend Capital Partners. “I find there are a lot more practical professionals in Finland than for example in the US; not only are they doctors but they are also scientists, which is very unusual. It is important because when you develop something you want to know what kind of a problem you are solving in real society.”

2. Biobanks and health records dating back to the 1960s

Whether it concerns pharma or device development, the highly educated workforce and the availability of health data makes Finland an optimal choice for R&D.

“Finland is the ideal base to do research,” commented Miriam Holstein, CEO of the Nordic region at Bayer Group. “We have our fifth largest R&D function in Finland, and what we really utilise is the availability of health data. We have the health register dating back to the ‘60s, we have the biobanks, we have the openness of the whole society – not just the government, but the entire society is a very open environment to do research and conduct clinical trials.”

3. Innovative medical device technology with proven results

The Finnish healthtech scene is very strong in IT and software, and there is also a large number of innovative medical device startups that concentrate on providing new solutions for different phases of surgery.

“In digital health, there are a lot of interesting innovations coming out and we are monitoring the sector closely to see how it develops,” said Charity Kufas, vice president of business development and strategy at Medtronic. “We are looking for innovative technology that is proven – [and] so will have clinical validation of its efficacy – and then we look at what is the market opportunity. What is really key to understand is how is it going to fit in the existing workflow of surgeons and healthcare practitioners. Demonstrating the economic value of the technology is important, it is not enough to be just innovative.”

4. Deep understanding of the capabilities of technology

Because the Finnish IT sector has been strong and cross-cutting different industries for decades, there is a continuous stream of excellent technology emerging from here.

“Typically, when we look at companies in an international competition, the reason why we invest in a Finnish company is that they just were that much deeper, that much more thorough in understanding the problem and how to solve it from a technical perspective,” described Tanja Dowe, CEO at Debiopharm Innovation Fund S.A. “Real data, deep knowledge and management based on the capabilities of the technology are the defining characteristics of Finnish healthtech companies.”

5. Efficient ecosystem

The Finnish ecosystem of technology has grown steadily from the era of Nokia, and investors are monitoring the activities within it. The great track record in world-changing technology has required a lot of work, and one of the investors even suggested that the great work and innovations may be partly thanks to the cold climate that makes us Finns work more. What do you know?

“Finland is the home base for great technologies like Nokia and Suunto,” continued Ascend Capital Partners’ Monita K. Mo. “You already have the place to create great technologies, which other parts of the world may not have. The entrepreneurs are more focused on the stuff they really believe in. Finland is also very friendly country with less stiff bureaucracy and simpler, more transparent regulations.”

By: Ona Aula