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Concentrating on eHealth

Technology – in the shape of ICT – is becoming an increasingly important resource in health care and well-being the world over, and not least in Kuopio in eastern Finland. The latter’s core expertise in eHealth is concentrated in a resource triangle, based on Teknia, the University of Kuopio, and Savonia Polytechnic.

The Kuopio region in eastern Finland has become home to a wealth of health and well-being know-how, thanks to its steadily growing expertise in the field and the close cooperation between the research community and businesses in the region.

The 10-year Health Kuopio programme, for example, is designed to bring together local expertise to transform the region into a major centre of excellence in health and well-being – nationally and internationally.

The Teknia approach to eMedicine asks some key questions, such as why should patents have to go to a health centre, when many of the services they need could be delivered over the Internet?

Turning innovation into success

WellTeknia is one of the core development projects in the Health Kuopio programme, and has involved the setting-up of three laboratories dedicated to brainstorming, eHealth, and marketing.

eHealth, one of the fastest-growing sectors of health care technology, is a particular focus of the project – which wants to create a unique, innovative development environment for simulating services, such as remote diagnostics and teleconsultation, under laboratory conditions.

Rather than be purely technology-driven, as much of eHealth has been so far, WellTeknia’s process focuses on three distinct research issues. These involve evaluating the usability of new innovations, determining how well they conform to standards, and, most importantly of all, reviewing how new innovations impact existing health care processes.

The results of this work will be used to turn new health care ICT innovations into true success stories.

The WellTeknia project, and its work on areas such as using secure networks to transmit digital patient data, has already generated interest outside Finland.

Transmitting data in this way will provide higher-quality, faster response times, and eliminate the delays normally caused by distance and time in the care provided to patients.

The first pilot project in this area is expected to start relatively soon, and gives every sign of becoming an export success.

Close cooperation between all the players in the field has been a major factor in helping the Kuopio region become home to a wealth of health and well-being know-how.

Focusing on sensors

Sensor technology has an especially important part to play in eHealth applications. With this in mind, Savonia Polytechnic has set up a dedicated microsensor laboratory. And is working with the University of Kuopio and the National Public Health Institute on the possibility of using micromechanical sensors to detect biofilm growth in drinking water systems, for example.

Kuopio’s strength in sensor technology convinced Honeywell, a major international technology company, to locate its sensor development unit at Teknia a few years ago. Honeywell’s sensor development has initially concentrated on developing technology for the next generation of paper and printing machines, but there is clear potential for extending this expertise to health care technology in the future.

Strong R&D leads to strong products

Kuopio has a solid track record in gene technology research, and one that has led to several spin-offs. The development of the world’s first transgenic heifers has been followed by several commercial applications, such as POC virus diagnostics and dnaArray diagnostics.

The latest application to follow this path has been gene-based medication. Basic biomedical research at the University of Kuopio laid the foundation for the birth of Ark Therapeutics, now listed on the London Stock Exchange. Ark Therapeutics has recently been granted a licence from the EMEA (European Medicines Agency) to launch the world’s first gene-based medicine manufacturing unit, to be located in the Teknia Microteknia 4 building.

Kuopio Science Park is home to a unique combination of skills and expertise in the fields of health, nutrition, and the environmental sciences, as well as information and communications technology.

More than 15,000 people work or study in the Park, which houses the University of Kuopio, Kuopio University Hospital, Teknia, Savonia Polytechnic, the Neulanen Research Centre, the Kuopio Regional Office of the Geological Survey of Finland, as well as over 190 companies.

Teknia plays an important role in encouraging business development in eastern Finland, thanks to its unique R&D skills, custom-built facilities, and wide range of services for promoting the start-up of new business activities. Valuable input is provided by Teknia’s participation in a network of national and international organisations.

In Finland, these include the Finnish Science Park Association (TEKEL), the Pharmaceutical Cluster of Finland, and Finnish Bioindustry (FIB). Internationally, Teknia’s partners include the International Association of Science Parks (IASP) and the International Relay Centre (IRC).

Teknia’s strategic partners in Asia include the Shanghai Pudong New District Government, the Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park, the Shanghai Innovative Research Center of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai International Medical Zone, and the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park.

In Europe, Teknia’s partners include the University of Surrey in Britain, Teknikbyn Västerås Technology Park in Sweden, and Gesellschaft für Technologieförderung Itzehoe mbH Izet in Germany. In the US, Teknia works with the Minnesota University Enterprise Laboratories.

> Hannu Janhunen
(Published in High Technology Finland )