Oulu-region in Finland introduces a broad range of wireless health care services

Oulu 04 May 2004Health care services that utilize top technology have become an increasingly important business area to many companies located within the Oulu-region of Finland. Companies of the area are creating sales worth nearly one-fourth of a billion of euros, by producing products such as heart rate monitors, wireless monitoring and location devices, as well as providing digital information services and other solutions aimed at promoting health care services and well-being. In addition, several of the Oulu-region firms have also expanded their production outside the Finnish boarders - production sites, which produce additional sales revenue worth several millions of euros.

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Local innovations, which are a result of successful co-operation between companies and the Oulu University, have helped to create some 1500 new jobs in the area during the past few years. Currently there are 64 companies within the sector, and it is anticipated that the number of workers within the industry will double during the coming few years.

"We are in many ways unique and world leaders. We will promote the use of wireless devices and services in the health care sector within the Oulu area, because business co-operation and research activity is also solid in the sector", stated Director Jorma Kaitera, who leads a regional programme called Wellness Forum. The programme runs mainly with the assistance of state funding, and its aim is to boost businesses operating in the industry.

Development programmes that last several years are important in the process of transferring results from research from universities and researching agents to the business sector and companies themselves. They also help in improving co-operation between different parties by organising various happenings where people could meet. "There is still a lot of potential for new ideas, because the majority of health care services are still beyond the reach of wireless and Internet-based solutions"," Jorma Kaitera stated.

Polar Electro is a key player within the industry, which has grown to become the worlds largest maker of heart rate monitoring devices. Several other smaller firms have also entered the market, such as Tracker Oy and Innokas Medical Oy, which is in co-operation with General Electric (GE). Innokas Medical is currently in the process of introducing the world's first wireless hospital, an area which will face great demand in the coming years. In addition, there is FRWD Technologies Ltd., a firm which specializes in producing wireless devices for the measurement and analysis of athletic performances.

Developing self-care services is also opening up opportunities for firms, as the ageing population is boosting demand for new technical services in the health care and well-being industries. One company specializing in this area is Mawell Oy, which is successfully transferring health care information services to the Internet.

Companies within the Oulu region also have a strong foothold in several international large-scale programmes, with one example of such a project the building of a wellness centre in Sedain, Japan, which is expected to be finalized in October. The building project is valued at 35 million euros. The Japanese will purchase health care services from Finnish companies. One of Japan's biggest future challenges is the provision of health care services to its ageing people.

The Oulu region is located some 600 kilometers North of Finland's capital Helsinki. A university is located in the City of Oulu, with its approximately 15.000 students. Focus is on technical and medical science. The area also is home to VTT Electronics, the county's leading electronic research facility. Some 200.000 people live within the Oulu area, with Nokia Corporation being the area's biggest employer, employing some 5000 staff. Some 500 companies specialize in top technology in the area.


Leslie Versweyveld

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