Having reputable global brands protect the industry: the products are significant investments by customers and people’s lives depend on the products being safe and effective. The need for constant improvement requires R&D to be in close contact with manufacturing. Health technology is seldom mass-produced – in many cases products are essentially customer-manufactured. Finland offers both established and new companies a genuinely competitive growth environment. In recent years, mechanisms and instruments for public funding of joint R&D programs of healthtech companies and public health care have become available.
This funding is vital. To ensure its long-term success, the Finland’s healthtech sector will need its smaller companies to grow significantly and needs to encourage the next generation of entrepreneurs to see the opportunities healthtech can offer.
Healthtech Giants investing in Finland
Many foreign companies have established, or have expanded, R&D operations in Finland, benefitting from a large pool of highly educated professionals and a wide range of supporting services. Finland offers a solid base for multinationals to build international success stories. Multinationals investing in Finland, initially through acquisitions, include i.e. Perkin Elmer, GE Healthcare, Philips Healthcare, Thermo Fischer Scientific, Danaher, Varian Medical Systems and Elekta. All these multinationals have continued to invest in in their acquired operations in Finland – in many cases for decades. Investment has been encouraged by the high-level of co-operation between industry and Finland’s academic hospitals and research institutions.
Combined with a deep understanding of healthcare requirements, locally available expertise in engineering, software development, industrial design, wireless and mobile technologies offer all players the opportunity for genuine and sustainable innovation.
Today, Finland has over 300 companies operating in healthtech, including approximately 100 companies offering the manufacturing, design, clinical trial, regulatory and other services needed locally by both large players and startups. However, Finland is no exception to the rule that a handful of large companies, and most of them now integrated into multinationals, account for the majority of the country’s production.
Now Finland’s largest hi-tech export
On the back of very strong exports of electromedical equipment, Finland’s healthtech sector enjoyed its best trade year ever in 2014. In 2014, exports of health technology grew 8.3 % to a new record of €1.8 billion. With exports continuing to grow faster than imports, Finland’s trade surplus in health technology products widened 11 % to a record €829 million.
Health technology is Finland’s now largest hi-tech sector, representing nearly half of all hi-tech exports. Companies operating in Finland have clearly developed sustainable global business models: healthtech exports have increased at an average annual rate of 9 % for two decades Mirroring the underlying market growth in most developed economies, health technology imports have grown at an average rate 4% annually.