The University of Tartu welcomed a Swedish business delegation on May 4th, as they embarked on a visit to explore the university’s cutting-edge health technologies and research-intensive entrepreneurship opportunities. It was part of the state visit of King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden hosted by President Alar Karis. Sustainability and resilience took centre stage during the discussions, as Estonia aims to become a global leader in health technologies.
The University of Tartu is the oldest and most renowned university in Estonia, established in 1632 by Swedish King Gustav II Adolf, it now serves as an intellectual hub of a region.
The delegation comprised esteemed entrepreneurs and developers in the Swedish health technology industry, including prominent names like AstraZeneca, Asker Healthcare Group, Carl Bennet, OneMed, Ågrenska Foundation, and Business Sweden.
Mart Maasik, Head of Entrepreneurship at the University of Tartu, emphasized the importance of cross-disciplinary collaboration and the synergy between researchers and businesses, as demonstrated by Sweden’s trailblazers in health technology. Estonia, which shares a similar business culture, will be exploring joint growth prospects.
The visit commenced with an enlightening tour of the Estonian Biobank, a treasure trove of rich datasets that offer unparalleled opportunities for companies to develop innovative healthcare services and products.
Professor of Human Genomics, Tõnu Esko, captivated the delegation with his presentation on the Estonian Biobank’s data accelerator concept. This visionary initiative aims to provide secure and controlled access to the collected gene data for the world’s most innovative companies and startups. By leveraging this vast genetic repository, they can forge ahead in creating groundbreaking medicines, products, and services.
Four pillars of the HealthTech revolution
Next on the agenda was an introduction to Estonian research-intensive companies specializing in health technologies at the Delta Centre. During this session, Evelyn Laar, Director of the Baltic Region at Asker Healthcare AB, and Anders Olauson, Chairman of the Ågrenska Foundation, delved into crucial discussions on sustainability and resilience in healthcare. The exchange yielded four key takeaways:
- Holistic Approaches: Sustainability in the health sector necessitates holistic strategies that encompass patients. Recognizing that patients are not merely end-users but should actively participate in designing and planning services and accessibility.
- Estonia’s Leadership Opportunity: Estonia has a golden opportunity to lead the charge in reforming the health system. With successful developments in e-health and digitized health data, the country has become an exemplary model for many nations. However, it is crucial not to overlook patient-centred considerations during the evolution of these systems and services.
- Circular Economy Potential: The application of circular economy principles in medicine and the pharmaceutical industry remains limited, posing a significant challenge. Given the substantial waste generated by hospitals and the materials required for manufacturing supplies, finding solutions to this problem becomes imperative.
- Purpose-Driven Innovation: Health technology startups must shift their focus beyond personal profit and prioritize the well-being of society and the planet. Adopting a long-term perspective in health policy-making is essential for driving meaningful change.
The delegation also had the opportunity of exploring various labs and units at the Delta Centre, which serve as fertile ground for deep technology companies. For instance, the Intelligent Materials and Systems Lab at the Institute of Technology specializes in developing interactive robots for hospital and industrial settings.
The Computer Graphics and Virtual Reality Lab at the Institute of Computer Science showcased exciting advancements in tracking facial expressions and transferring them to virtual characters. Additionally, researchers presented their collaborative work with neuroscientists, aiming to recreate psychedelic experiences in virtual environments.
Showcasing ecosystem approach
Further showcasing the dynamic ecosystem at the University of Tartu, the Tartu Science Park, headquartered in the Delta business building, highlighted their activities in fostering startup businesses. Notable among the presentations was Triumf Health, a company dedicated to developing an app that supports children’s mental health. Their valuable experience shed light on the innovative solutions emerging from the university’s entrepreneurial landscape.
The SEB Innovation Centre, renowned for its forward-thinking approach, provided an overview of its collaborative efforts with researchers and students. One notable initiative involves offering students the opportunity to conduct research based on anonymized data. This collaboration benefits ongoing research endeavours and presents new possibilities for the bank itself.
Concluding the visit, representatives from Enterprise Estonia and Business Sweden engaged in a productive discussion that emphasized the importance of maintaining strong connections with nearby partners. Recognizing the value of fruitful collaborations, the delegation expressed their gratitude for the well-organized and engaging program in both Tallinn and Tartu.
As the University of Tartu continues to drive innovation and research excellence, this visit has undoubtedly paved the way for exciting collaborations, groundbreaking advancements, and a promising future in health technologies and research-intensive entrepreneurship. The world eagerly anticipates the transformative impact that will emerge from Estonian remarkable fusion of expertise, vision, and collaboration.
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