Strategic Centres for Science, Technology and Innovation (SHOK) have been established in Finland in 2006–2009 in selected fields important to the future of Finnish society. A public-private partnership model of operation has been chosen. A non-profit limited company, SalWe Ltd, was founded in 2009 to operate the Health and Well-being SHOK. Its shareholders include significant Finnish companies, universities, and research institutions. A Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) was jointly prepared by SalWe’s shareholders as the framework for its forthcoming research programs. The first SalWe research program “Intelligent Monitoring of Health and Well-being (IMO)” was jointly set up by 13 companies and 7 research institutions in 2010.
Several trends, e.g. the increased burden of health care costs and the flood of health information, call for development of new tools to be used by individuals for monitoring their own health. This also requires development of new models of collaboration between private companies and public research organizations. The key is to speed up translation of research findings into R&D programs of companies and evolution from invention to innovation. The IMO program aims at affordable, intelligent, easy-to-use tools for monitoring of health & well-being by individual users or healthcare professionals. Solutions aim at improved prediction, prevention, and management of microbial infections, inflammations and cancer.
The IMO Program is led by company representatives and utilizes the expertise of renowned research teams chosen by the companies. Moreover, the Finnish Funding Agency of Technology and Innovation (Tekes) is committed to significantly supporting this effort. The IMO program plan consists of five work packages and includes 21 identified tasks. Results will be forthcoming from work done by 31 research groups. The budget for industrial research in the companies is planned to be more than 50% of the total IMO budget for 2010–2013. Progress is reported in the IMO portal and is visible to all partners. Progress during the program is also followed by means of queries, interim result reporting, and evaluations. According to the agreements the partners have equal license-free rights to exploit the results of the IMO program.
The IMO program started in June 2010 and is scheduled to end in December 2013. The total budget is € 25 million, of which 54% is funded by Tekes, 31% by companies, and 15% by research institutes. The total volume is 209 person-work-years. The IMO program combines expertise of in vitro diagnostics, in vivo imaging, and processing of medical data.
According to the first self-evaluation at the 1-year milestone, e.g. the joint research was felt to be particularly multidisciplinary and the results widely utilizable in society, companies, and research organizations. The impact of cooperation on the creation of shared core competence among the participants was felt to be very significant and the research cooperation excellent in terms of its international scope and relevance.
Interim reports from the partners at the 1-year work milestone also indicate good progress. Several promising biomarker candidates have been identified for monitoring e.g. chronic airway diseases, intestinal inflammations and progress of prostate cancer, and for selection of stem cells for therapeutic purposes. Proof-of-concepts for both centralized multiplexed testing and affordable decentralized testing, including printable monitoring, have been successfully developed to meet basic requirements set by industrial partners. Assessment of a new model for citizen-professional collaboration in utilization of health records is proceeding well. Progress has also been achieved in segmentation of in vivo images with the aim of therapy targeting. Intelligent monitoring of prostate cancer has been taken as an over-arching theme through all the IMO work packages. A citizen-centered approach is emphasized.
Public-Private Partnership model adopted by SalWe Ltd has gained international interest and seems to be an effective accelerator in research and development of new tools for diagnostics and monitoring of health and well-being.