Eyes on top Finnish health research

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The Finnish Health and Life Science Research Showcase for investors was held online December 8-9, 2021, bringing international investors and next-level Finnish future innovation together.

Now arranged for the second time, the event aimed at boosting the recognition of the Finnish projects, introducing researchers to international investors, promoting awareness of available funding opportunities as well as putting interesting projects – that are still at the research stage – on the investors’ collective radar.

The annually held event is co-organized by four parties: Health Capital Helsinki, Business Finland, Business Finland Venture Capital and Tesi (Finnish Industry Investment Ltd).

Altogether, the event introduced 22 promising research projects from Finnish universities to 21 international and 10 Finnish investors. The investors got to listen to the pitches of the most prominent health and life science focused research groups of the Finnish universities – some of them returning from the previous year’s event.

Make it one-on-one, please!

This year, the event had added an important feature: investors now had the possibility for 1:1 meetings with the research groups right after their pitches. These meetings turned out to be a big hit as there was a total of 53 one-on-ones.

One of the experts making a pitch was professor Tero Järvinen from the University of Tampere. Järvinen, who presented the project DecoDerma at the event, said that the commercialization of the project is still at its early stages.

“We will continue to search for funding in the near future and move our molecule to clinical trials,” said Järvinen.

Järvinen was making a pitch at the event now for the second time, having had the opportunity to present the same case to the investors last year, as well.

“This year, we again received highly valuable experience. A large number of investors were interested in our project and we had multiple productive one-on-one meetings with the investors,” Järvinen looks back at the event.

Recipe for success

Speaking at the event, Stephanie Munk from Danish VC company Sunstone Life Science Ventures commented that Finland – and Nordics, in general – have a lot of things going for them: free education, strong universities and networks that support the birth of various innovations. Furthermore, Nordic innovation hubs/clusters have performed convincingly in Health & Wellbeing and investors are taking note in numbers.

“Because of these reasons, European and US investors are looking at Scandinavia for investment opportunities in healthcare and other sectors,” said Munk.

Talking about what Sunstone is looking for in an investment project, Munk said that ground-breaking innovation is obviously the number one thing. If the project is rooted in hard science and able to deliver an improved patient outcome, the prospects are rather promising from the get-go.

“In addition, the team must be competent and ambitious enough and it must have a solid master plan,” Munk concluded.

More than meets the eye

Investment Director Joni Karsikas from Tesi believes that Finnish health sector may still suffer from a slight case of “best kept secret” – looking at things from Central Europe, for example, Finland is a fringe market.

“We have great science projects with genuine commercial potential here, but we need to get our researchers into the limelight a lot more,” he said.

According to Karsikas, the Finnish Health and Life Science Research Showcase is valuable for doing just that: investors get a “sneak peek” at what’s cooking in the best universities in Finland.

“Also, as the event was now held for the second time, you see the progress certain projects have made in a year – and there’s real consistency there. This bodes well for the eventual commercial opportunities, as well.”

Oscar Castanon, Analyst at Argobio Studio, based in France, participated in the event and definitely liked what he saw.

“The Finnish Health and Life Science Research Showcase was very well organized and helped us identify key researchers with projects fitting our interests,” Castanon comments.

“We hope that some of these projects will lead to future collaborations,” he adds.


Text: Sami J. Anteroinen
Event photo: Rauni Korolainen / Business Finland