Andero Kalju

Swedish business delegation visited the University of Tartu to explore its health technologies and opportunities for research-intensive entrepreneurship

During the visit of the Swedish business delegation to the University of Tartu Estonian Biobank and Delta Centre on 4 May, sustainability and resilience were discussed. One conclusion of the discussions was that Estonia has a good chance of becoming a global leader in health technologies

The business delegation included Swedish health technology entrepreneurs and developers. Among others, AstraZeneca, Asker Healthcare Group, Carl Bennet, OneMed, Ågrenska Foundation and Business Sweden were represented. 

According to Mart Maasik, Head of Entrepreneurship of the University of Tartu, we can be proud of the university's great research potential. "Sweden's leaders in health technology have shown that global success is ensured by cross-disciplinary collaboration as well as collaboration between researchers and businesses. This visit is a good opportunity for our research-intensive companies to forge international business links and create joint growth opportunities with the Swedes, with whom we also share a similar business culture," said Maasik before the visit. 

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The visit started with a tour of the biobank, which, with its rich dataset, offers new opportunities for companies to create healthcare services and products. Professor of Human Genomics Tõnu Esko presented the idea of the data accelerator of the Estonian Biobank, which will give the world's innovative companies and start-ups secure and controlled access to the collected gene data to create new medicines, products and services. 

Then, Estonian research-intensive companies in the field of health technologies were showcased to the delegation at the Delta Centre. Evelyn Laar, Director of the Baltic Region of Asker Healthcare AB, and Anders Olauson, Chairman of the Ågrenska Foundation, discussed sustainability and resilience in healthcare. Four key messages emerged from the discussion. 

  • Sustainability in the health sector is only possible if it is approached holistically, including patients. Patients are not only the end-users of health services but also need to be increasingly involved in designing and planning services and access. 
  • Estonia has a good opportunity to take the lead in reforming the health system. Estonia has successfully developed e-health and digitised health data, and has become a role model for many other countries. However, patients must not be forgotten in developing these systems and services. 
  • Opportunities for applying the circular economy in medicine and the pharmaceutical industry have so far been limited. This is a serious problem that needs to be solved, given the huge amount of waste generated by hospitals and the materials required for manufacturing supplies. 
  • Health technology start-ups need to think beyond personal profit and aim for the well-being of society and the planet. Health policymaking needs a decade-long perspective. 
Robotite tutvustus

At the Delta Centre, the business delegation was taken to several labs and units that play an important role as a breeding ground for deep technology companies. For example, the Intelligent Materials and Systems Lab of the Institute of Technology specialises in developing robots that interact with humans (e.g. robots used in hospitals and industrial buildings). 

The Computer Graphics and Virtual Reality Lab of the Institute of Computer Science engages in teaching and research in the field of computer graphics, video game design and augmented reality. Guests were shown new solutions for tracking facial expressions and transferring them to virtual characters. Researchers presented their joint research with neuroscientists, aiming to mimic the experience of using psychedelics in a virtual environment.  

The team of the Creative Destruction Lab, the international mentoring programme for research and technology-based start-ups, introduced the opportunities to support businesses developing products and services related to digital governance, health data and cybersecurity. In addition to the University of Tartu, the programme includes the University of Oxford and several North American universities. 

Tartu Science Park, the office of which is located in the Delta business building, presented their activities in fostering start-up business. Triumf Health, which develops an app supporting children's mental health, shared their experience. 

The SEB Innovation Centre gave an overview of the bank's new lines of action in cooperation with researchers and students. For example, the centre offers students the opportunity to conduct research based on anonymised data. This could be beneficial for both research and the bank. 

The business delegation's visit ended with a concluding discussion between representatives of Enterprise Estonia and Business Sweden, where it was recognised that keeping in good contact with such nearby partners is important. The delegation members were grateful for the good organisation and interesting programme in both Tallinn and Tartu. 

The visit of the business delegation was part of the state visit of King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden hosted by President Alar Karis. 

Swedish business delegation in the University of Tartu

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