Innovation environment, attitude, and the buzzing health tech scene convinced Takeda that Nordics are the place to be when it comes to innovation. Globally leading biopharma company with 50,000 employees, launched the Nordic Innovation Hub in June 2019. The innovation hub, with one node in Helsinki, focuses on digital health and artificial intelligence (AI) and has already partnered with several Finnish health tech organizations and companies.
Sanna Venetvaara, Head of the Nordic Innovation Hub, says that the decision to invest in a Nordic Innovation Hub is also indicative of how Takeda – one of the 10 largest pharmaceutical companies in the world – views the future.
“What we’re doing at the Hub constitutes a big part of where the company is going next,” she believes. A major part of the Hub’s agenda is taking emerging digital & AI solutions and making sure that they genuinely benefit the wellbeing of the patient.
Hannes Toivanen, Strategic Partnerships Lead at the Hub, explains that Takeda could have established an innovation hub anywhere in the world, but the Nordic innovation environment and the buzzing health tech scene convinced the company’s leadership.
“I feel that the best thing about the local ecosystem is the attitude. There is a genuine desire in the startup field to tackle big problems, using the best technology and solutions on a global scale,” Toivanen assesses. “This mindset was a big reason behind establishing the hub here.”
Sure, there are also things like cutting-edge hi-tech, access to patient data systems and solid healthcare infrastructure – but for Toivanen, it all starts and ends with the right attitude.
“Without it, you don’t stand a chance.”
“The best thing about the local ecosystem is the attitude. There is a genuine desire in the startup field to tackle big problems, using the best technology and solutions on a global scale”
Hannes Toivanen, Strategic Lead, Nordic Innovation Hub
Innovation Through Collaboration
Sanna Venetvaara adds that another key feature of the local ecosystem is collaboration: universities, research institutions and companies constantly band together in pursuit of some exciting new innovation. Often, these breakthroughs lead to creation of startups with the goal of changing the world.
Venetvaara and Toivanen say that during the first year of the Hub’s operation, they’ve acquired a pretty good handle on the startup scene in the Nordics. During the past 12 months, they’ve heard pitches from about 100 startups.
Still, Toivanen points out that Takeda may well be a “different kind of animal” in the innovation game. “When startups pitch to us, they often lead with business aspects and talk about the profits horizon. What we’re most interested in, however, is the question: how does all this benefit the patient?”
Takeda’s philosophy has always been ‘patient first’ and this is evident in the creation of the Hub as well; Venetvaara and Toivanen say that they want to cultivate relationships specifically with companies who share the mindset and values.
“We’re seeking for partners to contribute in projects where there can be a wide range of participation from different actors, including also healthcare professionals and patients,” says Venetvaara.
Venetvaara points out that with Takeda’s support, likeminded startups can, conceivably, push onwards to international fame. “We can help local startups reach the global markets,” she says.
Ingeborg R. Borgheim, Head of Nordics at Takeda, believes that the Nordic Innovation Hub is an important part of Takeda’s efforts to build more “sustainable, value-based healthcare”.
“An important enabling factor is the unique way that ‘the innovation attitude’ forms a part of the Nordic society and health ecosystem. This makes it easy for Takeda to involve a wide range of stakeholders, from startups to hospitals and cities, to improve healthcare with new solutions and approaches,” Borgheim comments.
Getting the hub up and running has required hard work – and quality partners. “Helsinki Business Hub and Health Capital Helsinki have offered support that has been just invaluable,” Toivanen and Venetvaara conclude.