Universities start program to accelerate growth of research-based companies in the health sector

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, the University of Helsinki and the University of Tampere launch a development programme with objectives of enhancing the commercialisation abilities of researchers and research-based companies in the health sector and building internationally competitive, growing business in Finland.

Finland is far from the health sector's the key markets and there are only few experts of international high-growth companies. Finland’s market is progressive but small, so almost without exception, companies in the health sector have to aim to the global market already in the establishment-stage.

Solutions will be developed based on clinical unmet needs

SPARK Finland development programme will provide Finnish researchers and clinicians with the capabilities to build new products and competitive and growing business with the help of an international network of experts and the SPARK commercialisation process developed by Stanford University. The development programme will aid researchers and clinical health care professionals to create new solutions to the unmet needs of health care. In addition, experts and investors operating in the primary market will hone the product development and trade skills of those participating in the programme right from the start.

“SPARK will bring new culture to health technology and life science research, academic entrepreneurship and refinement of the value of research. Stanford University is the best possible associate for it is superior in this field. This collaboration is extremely valuable for Finns”, says Dean of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Helsinki Risto Renkonen.

SPARK’s teachings shorten the time spent on development essentially

“SPARK is a development programme that helps to develop diagnostics and medicine, for example, more efficiently than before. The development of a new medicine usually takes 15–20 years, but with SPARK's support, many years of work in the beginning can be shortened to just few years. This is how we get from research to clinical tests, piloting stage and commercialisation itself faster”, tells University of Tampere Vice Rector Seppo Parkkila.

“Finland has invested in health-related science, research and education as well as to extensive public healthcare system for decades. The combination of our world-class biobanks, relatively isolated gene pool, extensive healthcare registries and innovation friendly regulation gives a good starting point to capture our share of the growing healthcare market. The objective is to accelerate the growth and internationalisation of 10-15 research-based companies in the health sector with the help of the SPARK program”, states Pirjo Kutinlahti from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment.

The SPARK project is part of the Health Capital Helsinki measure, which enhances the possibilities competence-based growth of the life science and health technology sectors by renewing the courses of action which develop research into business and increases business collaboration. The founding members of the Health Capital Helsinki alliance are the City of Helsinki, Aalto University, HUS and University of Helsinki. The development of health technology and life science sectors is also a central focus of the University of Tampere. The medicine and bioscience research of the University of Tampere is connected to the technological research of the Tampere University of Technology especially in the universities’ joint BioMediTech institute.


Further information:

Ministerial Advisor Pirjo Kutinlahti, MEAE, tel. +358 (0)50 591 6607, pirjo.kutinlahti@tem.fi

Dean Risto Renkonen, University of Helsinki, tel. +358 (0)29 4125110, risto.renkonen@helsinki.fi

Vice Rector Seppo Parkkila, University of Tampere, tel. +358 (0)40 190 1825, seppo.parkkila@uta.fi



Innovating together

After a two-year pilot stage (2017-2018) the new programme is meant to be extended to other university regions in addition to Helsinki and Tampere. Another European SPARK programme is running in Berlin. The SPARK Finland program supports the implementation of the growth strategy of research and innovation in the health sector as well as the state's competence and education key project.

The objectives of this are to strengthen the co-operation between universities and economic life in order to commercialise research results and to accelerate the emergence of new companies also in the health sector. 

The head of SPARK Finland program Pasi Sorvisto (Health Capital Helsinki), Dean of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Helsinki, RIsto Renkonen and University of Tampere Vice Rector Seppo Parkkila, Head of Project Office Tuula Palmén (Health Capital Helsinki), MEAE Industrial Counsellor Antti Valle and MEAE Ministerial Advisor Pirjo Kutinlahti agreed on collaboration with Berlin’s SPARK programme director Craig Garner.