Finland's flag flutters in Helsinki, Finland, May 3, 2017.
(photo credit: INTS KALNINS / REUTERS)
Israel and Finland will partner to advance joint initiatives in digital health after a collaboration pilot project and call for proposals were launched on Tuesday by the Israel Innovation Authority (IIA) and the Israel-Europe Research & Innovation Directorate (ISERD).
Led by the IIA and the Helsinki Business Hub, the initiative will provide funding and matching services for Greater Helsinki-based and Israeli companies seeking to partner in order to co-develop, test, improve or pilot impactful technologies, products, services and devices with strong market potential in the fields of digital health, smart mobility and information and communication technologies (ICT).
Both Israel and Finland are recognized as world leaders in the field of healthcare technology.
In March 2018, the Israeli government approved a NIS 1 billion ($300 million) five-year national digital health plan which includes technological development, international cooperation, concentrated academic and industrial efforts and regulatory changes to encourage data research.
A combination of over 500 start-ups and health technology incubators are at the forefront of Israel’s charge towards leading the digital health field.
Digital health is Finland's largest hi-tech export today, increasing more than five-fold over the last two decades. The country boasts approximately 500 digital health companies and was one of the first to set up a national digital patient data repository where all citizens have online access to their health records, covering both the public and private sectors.
"We are thrilled to provide this bridge between the pioneering innovation ecosystems of Israel and Finland in a field that impacts us all: digital health," said Aharon Aharon, CEO of the Israel Innovation Authority.
"Collaboration with Israeli companies will help Finnish start-ups access groundbreaking technologies that support the country’s progressive health policies, protect Finnish citizens’ well-being and maintain Finland’s status as a global leader in healthcare technology," Aharon said.
"This is also an extraordinary opportunity for Israeli companies to connect with Finnish leaders in the digital health ecosystem, gain exposure to new cutting-edge technologies, receive support for meaningful innovations and tap into the Finnish market."
Welcoming the initiative, Finnish Ambassador-designate to Israel Kirsikka Lehto-Asikainen said: "It is an important and exciting leap forward for the cooperation between Finland and Israel as leading innovative countries. We are truly happy to be part of that partnership and will continue promoting similar initiatives in the future – we can certainly see a great potential for that."
According to a report published on Tuesday by Tel Aviv-based nonprofit Start-Up Nation Central, the rapid growth in the number of Israeli digital health start-ups in recent years – from 327 companies in 2014 to 537 today – has drawn in new investors and driven investment to a record high of $511m. in 2018.
Some 85% of the sector's total financing ($433m.) last year went to health companies utilizing some form of machine learning, demonstrating the ascendancy of artificial intelligence in digital health. By the end of the first quarter of 2019, companies had already raised some $214m. in funding.
The availability of detailed electronic medical records gathered by the country's four primary health maintenance organizations (HMOs), the report said, has provided start-ups with an increased ability to train and test artificial intelligence solutions and partner with HMOs to validate their technology from early stages of development.
"With the combination of strong technological expertise and access to data, Israeli decision-support companies, most of which utilize AI technologies, have been able to flourish and have attracted increased levels of funding," the report said.
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