Finland, Israel launch partnership initiative for digital health innovation

The Israeli Innovation Authority and the Helsinki Business Hub will fund Israeli and Finnish startups who find ways to work together.
By Jonah Comstock
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Photo illustration by Jonah Comstock

Israel and Finland — two countries that have notably made digital health a focus of their economies — announced this week that they will work together to advance the field, starting with a Call for Proposals for joint projects between Finnish and Israeli companies.

The pilot project is being led by Helsinki Business Hub and the Israeli Innovation Authority, which will offer funding and services to Finnish and Israeli companies. The initiative will provide funding and matching services for Greater Helsinki-based and Israeli companies who work together to “co-develop, test, improve, or pilot impactful technologies, products, services and/or devices with strong market potential in the fields of digital health, smart mobility and information and communication technologies (ICT),” according to press release from the Israeli Innovation Authority. 

WHY IT MATTERS

Both Finland and Israel have become hubs of digital health innovation due to a confluence of factors, including public health systems with well-organized and coordinated data sets. Both countries are well ahead of the US in terms of interoperability and unique patient identification, for instance, and both are in the midst of ambitious genome projects.

Both countries also have impressively robust digital health startup scenes. In Finland’s case, this space grew up as a result of many surplus engineers after Nokia’s mobile phone business left the country, as well as in answer to the challenges of providing quality care to a geographically remote population. For Israel, the rise of digital health as a focus for startups has been partly a result of government incentives and partly a matter of responding to its own unique challenges as the country has responded to increased medical needs due to wars in the face of relatively low medical funding.

WHAT’S THE TREND

Incidentally, both Finland and Israel have recently invited small groups of international journalists, including yours truly, to learn about their health tech scenes.

In November, MobiHealthNews wrote about Finland’s Health Villages program as well as its newest children’s hospital.

And just this month, we covered Israel’s one-billion-shekel-bet on digital health as well as Israeli hospitals’ pragmatic approach to innovation. We went even deeper on innovation efforts at Tel Aviv’s Sheba Medical Center in our February HIMSS Insights eBook.

ON THE RECORD

“We are thrilled to provide this bridge between the pioneering innovation ecosystems of Israel and Finland, in a field that impacts us all: digital health,” Aharon Aharon, CEO of the Israel Innovation Authority, said in a statement. “Collaboration with Israeli companies will help Finnish start-ups access groundbreaking technologies that support the country’s progressive health policies, protect Finnish citizens’ well-being, and maintain Finland’s status as a global leader in healthcare technology. This is also an extraordinary opportunity for Israeli companies to connect with Finnish leaders in the digital health ecosystem, gain exposure to new cutting-edge technologies, receive support for meaningful innovations, and tap into the Finnish market.”

“Greater Helsinki is a driving force in Finland’s innovation sector, home to 750 health and life sciences companies, where over 80% of tech deals occur in our country,” Marja-Liisa Niinikoski, CEO of Helsinki Business Hub (HBH), said in a statement. “Given Israel’s technological prowess, highly skilled workforce, and record on innovation in digital health, we see endless opportunities for fruitful collaboration. We are excited to embark on this cooperative venture between two of the world’s most innovative economies — for the benefit of all humankind.”

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