From the series “Get to Know the Clusters of the Kuopio Region”
Kuopio Health is one of the main clusters in the Kuopio Region. It is also a member of ECHSAlliance (European Connected Health Alliance), having been selected ECHAlliance Ecosystem of the Month in April 2022, and an ECCP member (European Cluster Collaboration Platform).
In this article, the highlights of interviews with the CEOs of Kuopio Health, Medikro Oy, and Kasve Oy, as members of the ecosystem, have been reflected.
The article begins with a brief introduction to Kuopio Health and continues by highlighting why it is important for companies to be members, what the main requirements are for companies in the health sector, and the region’s potentials in the health sector as the main incentives for investors willing to come to Kuopio region and invest in the companies.
With 27 member companies and seven main communities, Kuopio Health was founded in March 2019. Its goal is to assist businesses in connecting with different facility providers in order to utilize their services and eventually flourish. “If you consider the entire system as a body, Kuopio Health Cooperation will serve as the system’s heart, acting as a facilitator and linking various elements”, said Aki Gröhn, CEO of the Kuopio Health.
“In the health sector in the Kuopio region, there are around 200 companies in total, the ones developing products/services or engaged in R&D.”
Kuopio Health is a non-profit organization that is primarily funded through membership fees. First half is funded by the large public members and the second half by the companies. The company membership fees are further categorized according to the company size. The target is to keep the entry barrier low for the start-ups.
Kuopio Health’s open innovation ecosystem is attractive in terms of what it does for businesses, but it still needs investments in order to attract more investors, become larger, and have a greater impact. In the Savilahti area in Kuopio, there is a large investment plan that will cost over a billion euros by 2030 (more information about the Savilahti project). Within a decade, from 2020 to 2030, the largest actors and organizations will be based in Savilahti, with a large investment of over 300 million Euros related to the health sector, mentioned Gröhn.
Companies are at the heart of Kuopio Health’s responsibilities; whatever assistance is required to help these businesses grow, Kuopio Health can provide it. This assistance is provided through different services like specific events (see the upcoming events here), casual meetings with the members, R&D collaboration with other organizations, training programs, and making infrastructure and clinical accessibility in demand for the companies. The main actors in the health sector in the Kuopio region have been depicted in the metro map created by Kuopio Health, here you can see “the health ecosystem map for startups in the Kuopio region”.
Membership: Becoming a member at Kuopio Health is easy! Applicants can submit an application online or contact the CEO directly. With membership, businesses have access to professionals and their knowledge, as well as the opportunity to participate in various events, such as international conferences, where they may broaden their network and meet other firms and investors. At Kuopio Health the members are mostly the major players, handling various jobs and participating in the main tasks.
Networking and training programs: From the companies’ point of view, networking through different events (either with specific titles or just casual meetings with the members) is among the more popular services that Kuopio Health provides for the companies. In addition, training programs in topics related to internationalization, marketing, IPR, and MDR (Medical Device Regulation) are another interesting service that the companies can receive from Kuopio Health. As a member of Kuopio Health, Mikko Juuti, CEO of Kasve Ltd, believes that they are stronger together, when companies are linked together and interact with other members, they may better collaborate along the value chain and offer different sorts of solutions to the customers.
“There are success stories about health enterprises from Kuopio Health every now and then, and we are acknowledged as one of the most important health technology and life science clusters on a national and international basis”, said Juuti.
“We are stronger together! As a minor member of the cluster, Kasve benefits from the cluster’s development.”
For Medikro, as one of the founding members of the Kuopio Health, it was important to have a dedicated organisation to facilitate cooperation in marketing, R&D, training and recruiting. “We see Kuopio Health as the cooperation platform that allows businesses to expand their networks, share best practices and combine forces in common interests”, said Tuukka Eloranta, CEO of Medikro Ltd. “The regulation, standards, import policies and logistical requirements are continuously evolving in the medical device industry. For us it is preferable to learn and organise training events jointly with other members rather than separately”, Eloranta continues.
Collaboration with the University of Eastern Finland and Savonia UAS: In terms of connecting with the university and Savonia, Kuopio Health’s efforts to establish a joint development with them are beneficial. As a result, industries and universities may collaborate to determine what types of studies and education are necessary for the health industry and then build degree frameworks jointly. In addition, the companies may be able to supply some of the university’s guest lectures and case studies.
“The collaboration between universities and companies is a win-win situation, employers get stronger recruits, and students gain a clearer view of the business and a current grasp of what’s going on. With more members at Kuopio Health, more activities may be done in the future, with more engaged people and more ideas. Having a diverse board of directors encourages people to be more engaged and participate.”
As mentioned before, one service that Kuopio Health may give and assist companies with is training. An ideal training channel would be the university, which might provide some courses linked to industry regulation (market research, industry characteristics), allowing companies to avoid having to teach their workforces from the start. As a result, students will first attend some university courses, after which Kuopio Health will be able to conduct advanced workshops for additional training.
Access to university laboratories and development resources: When Kuopio Health is in charge of connecting the university and the businesses, the entire process of gaining access to services becomes smoother and more approachable. It’s not just about the services that firms receive in Kuopio Health ; it’s about obtaining services that are in demand and have an influence.
Funding: In terms of funding, it is self-evident that a stronger cluster draws more investor interest and generates possibilities to be more visible to investors, as well as a favorable environment for entrepreneurs to obtain investment in the ecosystem.
Skilled workers: Regulatory, health technologies, ICT know-how, software development, machinery engineers, and new engineering program are among the domains where knowledge is in short supply. At Medikro, as a high-tech export enterprise, the majority of the employees are trained outside of Kuopio. To manufacture a product at Medikro, for instance, about ten different degrees are required and it would be easier to hire employees straight from Kuopio’s university and Savonia rather than from technical institutions such as Tampere, Oulu, and Lappeeranta.
Gröhn believes investors are mostly looking for firms that have the experience, know-how, or product that fits within their portfolio. In other words, the knowledge and skills generated in the company are what investors are searching for.
On the other hand, Juuti thinks that Investors are seeking talents to grow profitable business, and Kuopio has significant cutting-edge research in the health sector undertaken by the university and companies. We need to find out what kinds of diverse skills and specialists we have in the region, as well as what sort of education we provide at the universities because companies value expert workers. Kuopio region offers several benefits for investors, whether they are a new firm wanting to open an office in the region or a fund willing to invest in a company, Kuopio has a strong human resource base and great science behind its innovative research environments.
Eloranta agrees with all of Gröhn’s and Juuti’s suggestions for investor incentives. “Joining forces is a powerful thing also here. With corporate cooperation and partnerships with research service providers, we can both create new business opportunities and attract investors together”, Eloranta adds.
To this article were interviewed:
Text: Parastoo Jalili
Photos: Medikro, Kuopio Health, Kasve and Savilahti