Finland's Artificial Intelligence and Medical Technology Ecosystem - Opportunities for SMEs

Finland’s Artificial Intelligence and Medical Technology Ecosystem – Opportunities for SMEs

Finland has recently been a leader in artificial intelligence (AI) in making it available to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that make up 99% of all businesses in Europe.

This is a critical task, as at the European level, it has been recognized that companies and larger organizations are the primary beneficiaries of AI technologies, although small and medium-sized companies have great potential to introduce AI into business. The health and medical technology sector is of particular importance, since over the past 20 years, health technology has brought almost 14 billion euros to Finland’s foreign trade.

Create industry-specific knowledge and skills in artificial intelligence

AI is here, and change is inevitable, and requires moving the discussion from the public level to industry-specific training, mentoring and acceleration activities. An example is the AI-TIE accelerator launched in April 2022 which welcomed 16 Finnish SMEs in the health and medical technology sector on a journey to identify AI-related business opportunities and provide related solutions. This enables the creation and deepening of industry-specific AI expertise and thus supports companies operating in the industry.

While healthtech focuses on improving personalized and preventive care, the medical technology – medtech dimension focuses on therapeutic technologies, medical devices that address current medical problems, and diagnostic technologies that detect medical conditions. A special feature of Finland is the focus on preventive care. When it comes to the development of AI, it is probably an interesting hypothesis about whether inviting and seeing both angles as elements of the same ecosystem, can produce a meaningful output.

Emphasis on quality and original ideas

In contrast to targeting economies of scale, Finland’s strength has been in the strategy of specialization, when it comes to AI applications. Developing well-focused and value-added products, services, and concepts in AI leads to remarkable results. As a recent example: Finnish company Aiforia Technologies, which offers image analysis software using artificial intelligence. Aiforia was founded in 2013 and has been listed on the Helsinki Stock Exchange since December 2021. The company’s business model is based on the development and use of artificial intelligence models for medical research and diagnosis.

There are currently a large number of Finnish companies focusing on artificial intelligence in the field of health and medical technology, and as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are currently seeing an increase in diagnostic solutions. In fact, these companies can be categorized as dynamic growth companies, buoyed by the trend that the pandemic has revitalized digitalization and the demand for AI-based solutions. Next to Aiforia, Helsinki-based Disior creates 3D image analytics in diagnosis, Mvision acts as a cloud-based software service provider for radiotherapy planning, Cerenion of the Finnish city of Oulu focuses on diagnosing brain function, and Neuroevent in Tampere uses AI to process seizure detection.

Finnish success stories show that AI applied to improve the quality of diagnostic decisions has a valuable positive impact on the quality of treatment and can make work processes faster and more efficient.

Experimenting with solutions in Finland

The sector is historically considered strong in Finland, and in 2021 the value of Finland’s exports of health technology products increased to 2.52 billion euros, indicating an increase of 3.6% (Healthtech Finland 2022). Moreover, Finland has a remarkable R&D output in health and medical technology, which translates into a remarkably high rank in patents filed – 1% of all patents in Europe. As a result, Finland ranks 8th in the European Union for 27 patents filed in the field of artificial intelligence in healthcare and 11th for scientific papers. (European Commission 2021.)

Finland’s AI strengths lie in expertise, high-quality data, and collaboration (ETLA 2019). There is a good availability of AI solution developers and growing skills in the region. This corresponds to the need of small and medium businesses. Survey results among AI-TIE AI Accelerator’s health and medical technology companies indicate that more than half intend to hire professionals with AI experience in one year.

The storage and sharing of public healthcare data has taken great leaps forward. An example is Findata – a central service for granting permits for secondary use of social and health care data and improving data protection for individuals. The areas of focus to further strengthen the sector ecosystem in Finland call for collaboration between companies in the transition to globalization, closer work between the public and private sectors and the continuing need for a multidisciplinary approach to artificial intelligence among organizations focused on research, development, innovation, higher education institutes and business.

Sources

ETLA (2019). Digital Barometer (2019). Facts and Statistics Credit: Statistics Finland, Company Register, Vainu.io; ETLA accounts: Linkaccessed September 8, 2021.

European Commission (2021). Study on e-health, health data interoperability and artificial intelligence for health and care in the European Union. Artificial intelligence for health and care in the European Union. Written by PwC 2021, post visited December 1, 2021: link.

Healthtech Finland (2022). Export of health technology continues to grow – Corona led the export of laboratory diagnostics. Posted on May 4, 2022, visited on October 26, 2022: Link.


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