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Helsinki’s long-term health incubator seeks promising start-ups

Bahman Doaeian. Photo: Roope Permanto

Health Incubator Helsinki is a long-term, customised business incubator program for research-based growth companies operating in the health sector. This is the third time that the program is seeking new, promising start-ups. Health Incubator Helsinki is open for applications until 13 March, and approximately ten teams will be selected for the program starting in April.
Finland is renowned for its excellent healthcare system, high-quality medical and pharmaceutical research and exceptionally extensive and diverse health data. The Helsinki Metropolitan Area is home to a progressive health ecosystem consisting of various research universities, hospitals, companies and organisations operating in the sector. There are also close to 100 health sector start-ups operating within the area’s active start-up community. The Helsinki region truly is a unique development environment for companies that develop products or services based on health data to cater to the needs of healthcare professionals.

Health Incubator Helsinki helps commercialise research innovations

Health Incubator Helsinki was established in 2020 to boost the commercialisation and growth of research innovations towards successful business operations. On an international scale, the incubator program is long-term – it lasts up to three years – and it provides the participating companies with expert mentoring, networks and peer support.

“The program is customised based on the individual needs of each selected team. We can help, for example, with concept development and piloting as well as gaining access to financing and the market. We have an extensive network, and we like to bring together various operators,” says Christian Lardot, Incubator Leader at Health Incubator Helsinki.

Currently there are 23 start-ups, almost all of which have their roots in university research, that are developing their business operations in the incubator, located in the Meilahti Hospital area in close proximity of HUS Helsinki University Hospital. With the exception of an office facility fee, the incubator program is free-of-charge for the participants, and both Finnish and international start-up teams are encouraged to apply. Health Incubator Helsinki is a joint effort of the City of Helsinki and the University of Helsinki, and it cooperates with Health Capital Helsinki, an alliance focused on developing the ecosystem.

First-program start-ups raised significant financing

The first results of Health Incubator Helsinki are encouraging, to say the least. The 11 start-ups that started in the first program raised in total EUR 8 million in funding in 2021. The sum includes both private direct investments and grants.

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Uute Scientific Oy started in the first incubator program in 2020. The company has developed a microbial extract called Reconnecting Nature™, containing microbes from forests that enhance the human immune system. The extract can be used, for example, in cosmetics or textiles. The company recently announced that it has received an additional EUR 1.2 million in funding to accelerate its operations.

“Health Incubator Helsinki’s business advisors listen to the individual needs of companies and react to them by organising relevant training and meetings with investors. This together with the flexible office facilities has given us an excellent opportunity to focus on growing our business,” says Kari Sinivuori, CEO of Uute Scientific Oy.

Last autumn, Phonolyser Oy, a company that started in the second incubator program in 2021, won the world’s largest health technology event MEDICA’s start-up competition with its innovation that detects congenital heart disease in infants quickly and cost-efficiently. The entire Phonolyser team relocated to Finland from abroad after having been selected for the program and established their company in Helsinki.

“Health Incubator Helsinki team is ‘all-in’ when it comes to supporting, promoting and mentorship. It’s like a family: they are always there when we need them. Business premises and good location within the HUS Helsinki University Hospital is the least you can expect, ” says Bahman Doaeian, CBO of Phonolyser.

In search of ground-breaking innovations and persistent teams

The application period for the third incubator program is 7 February–13 March 2022. Candidates selected from among the applications will be invited to interview. Approximately 10–12 teams will be selected for the program starting in April 2022.

“During the application process, we will assess whether there is a market for the company’s innovation, service or product. Is the company involved in creating something new or improving existing solutions? One of the key factors we are looking for is dedication and perseverance of team members,” says Lardot.

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