Another cold winter is drawing in over Helsinki, Finland. But over at GE headquarters in Vallila, a couple of miles from the heart of the capital, the atmosphere is hotting up. Twenty like-minded young companies made up of engineers, entrepreneurs and scientists are hard at work setting new standards for innovation in healthcare. This is the Health Innovation Village, founded by GE Healthcare Finland’s managing director Didier Deltort, and head of finance Mikko Kauppinen.
Deltort and Kauppinen’s vision for the Village is one where young entrepreneurs and engineers work and socialize in the same environment as the more seasoned minds of their fields. This creates an environment of ‘manageable chaos’, where new ideas are allowed to flourish, unhindered by more traditional business practices, yet still properly managed and put to the test before being developed further.
“The reason we’ve set up the Innovation Village is to give start-ups an area where they are supported while they come up with the technological ideas that will revolutionize tomorrow’s healthcare,” said Deltort, speaking to GE Reports earlier this year. The companies rent office space in the village and are provided opportunities for funding and development as they grow. There is even a subsidized coffee shop where the brightest minds can meet and share ideas. It is a philosophy in the Village that good coffee brings people together, and can act as the glue in new partnerships.
Some of the Village’s startups, like software development house Fjuul, are focusing on developing software that encourages users to take more control over their health. To do that, Fjuul has created a smartphone app that allows people to monitor their daily physical activity. The app allows users to track their steps taken, calories burned, and even the intensity of their activities. Unlike most fitness apps already on the market, rather than relying on external hardware to recognize and track movement, the Fjuul app makes clever use of sensors already in the user’s smartphone. This eliminates the need for extra equipment like sensors or wristbands.
Over the last few months, more startups have joined the village and enjoyed the benefits of working in the same environment as one of the biggest healthcare companies in the world, alongside other fresh, bright innovators. An atmosphere of collaboration is actively encouraged, creating relationships that are yielding exciting, disruptive new healthcare solutions. Beibamboo, a specialized baby clothing company, is one of the latest to join the Village. “We are very excited about the possibility of exchanging knowledge and ideas with the hundreds of GE staff on site,” said Nina Ignatius, the company’s founder, to GE Reports. “GE manufactures incubators which means they have a lot of specialists and contacts very relevant to our end users and markets.”
“The health sector needs innovations and fresh thinking. We believe that the startups have it. We wanted to bring them closer, because innovations are created when people meet. Exchanging ideas with the startups helps us keep on track of fresh ideas and new ways of thinking. Eventually, this benefits our customers, too,” added Deltort.
The advantages for both GE Healthcare and the Village’s startups are manifold. For hospitals and health systems, quality of care is being enhanced through the systematic elimination of unsustainable models that some of the startups are highlighting. In turn, these improvements enhance patient experience and, ultimately, their overall wellbeing.
The official inauguration of the Healthcare Innovation Village will take place today with Finland’s Minister of Economic Affairs, Jan Vapaavuori and Helsinki’s mayor Jussi Pajunen. Speakers at the inauguration event will include Didier Deltort and serial entrepreneur and investor Timo Ahopelto.
The initial success of the Innovation Village has set in in good stead for future collaborations with other promising healthcare startups looking to join in a culture summed up best by Deltort, where “you can’t innovate if you don’t collaborate.”