How to commercialise innovations in the health sector


How can we find new applications for technologies in the field of healthcare? How do we transform ideas into commercial products? On 23 January, business executives in the health sector and 80 other people interested in the topic gathered to consider these questions at a Health Factory workshop organised at Micronova.

Several challenges were identified concerning the commercialisation of innovations regarding, for example, correct timing and the identification of suitable distribution channels. In addition, it is necessary to attract the interest of investors and potential customers.

The keynote speaker at the workshop, Dr Pamela Contag, emphasised that ideally a technology product should meet a previously unsatisfied need.  Contag has established several companies operating in the area of life sciences, and she has also been recognised as one of the ’Top 25 Women in Small Business’ by Fortune Magazine.

’It is not enough that a technology is functional: we must also prove that the product is relevant and there is demand for it in the market. Investors are concerned with return and profitability, not the technology itself,’ Contag stressed.

Arve Lukander, a Partner in Inventure Oy, pointed out that the beneficiary or end user of the product and the person paying for the product are often not the same person. They may have conflicting needs, which introduces an additional challenge to the commercialisation of healthcare solutions.

Knowing when to flip the napkin

At times, when it appears the commercialisation simply will not work out, it may be necessary to switch direction. Contag’s expression for this is flipping the napkin. She refers to situations where a good business idea can have you scribbling your thoughts onto a napkin in a restaurant.

’Once people get excited about their business idea, they can sometimes become overly committed to it. Yet sometimes, even a good idea will not work, at which point it is worth considering whether some other application could be found for the technology. This means it is necessary to flip the napkin over and start from the beginning,’ Contag explains.

She encourages people to persevere and keep trying:

‘In all likelihood, all of us will make numerous mistakes in our lives, so it is best we stop being afraid of failure.‘

Searching for problems

Health Factory is an operation by Aalto University and its stakeholders aiming to identify actual problems of healthcare clients and develop solutions for them based on existing information. Entrepreneurs in the field of health technology are provided with advice and mentoring particularly in the early stages of commercialisation.

’Universities and other research institutes are in possession with a great deal of information, but they may not be aware of the practical problems currently being faced in elderly care, for example. Health Factory is a tool that can be used to put research information into practical use in society,’ states Professor Raimo Sepponen from the Aalto University Department of Electronics.

Could Otaniemi become the Silicon Valley of Europe?

What are the common denominators between Silicon Valley and Otaniemi? According to Contag, both areas have developed an ecosystem of start-up entrepreneurs that is favoured by the local state authorities. The most important thing, however, is that they are brimming with young people interested in entrepreneurship.

Further information